Original Research

Screening for depression at the primary care level: Evidence for policy decision-making from a facility in Pretoria, South Africa

Bahupileng L. Mashaba, Saiendhra V. Moodley, Neo R.T. Ledibane
South African Family Practice | Vol 63, No 1 : Part 1| a5217 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v63i1.5217 | © 2021 Bahupileng Lucy Mashaba, Saiendhra Vasudevan Moodley, Neo Ledibane | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 August 2020 | Published: 27 January 2021

About the author(s)

Bahupileng L. Mashaba, School of Health Systems and Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa; and, Gauteng Department of Health, Pretoria, South Africa
Saiendhra V. Moodley, School of Health Systems and Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Neo R.T. Ledibane, School of Health Systems and Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Depression is a serious public health issue that has clinical, social and economic implications. Adult patients attending a primary healthcare (PHC) facility were screened in order to estimate the prevalence of depressive features and identify potential risk factors for screening positive.

Methods: This was an analytical cross-sectional study conducted at a clinic in Pretoria, South Africa. A self-administered questionnaire, which included the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) screening tool, was completed by patients attending the clinic. A PHQ-9 score of less than five was deemed as a negative screen for depressive features; with a score of five or more being considered a positive screen. A multivariate logistic regression model was developed to identify factors associated with a positive screen for depressive features.

Results: A total of 199 patients participated and the proportion screened positive for depressive features using the PHQ-9 tool was 46.23% (n = 92). Employed participants had significantly lower odds (odds ratio [OR] = 0.48; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.25 – 0.94) of screening positive, whilst the participants with significantly higher odds were those with co-morbidities (OR = 2.12; 95% CI: 1.08 – 4.17) and a history of stressful life events (OR = 3.21; 95% CI: 1.64 – 6.28).

Conclusion: Depression appears to be a significant problem in PHC settings in South Africa. Screening for depressive features at primary level, targeting those with chronic medical conditions, history of recent stressful life events and other known risk factors may improve detection rates, lead to earlier diagnosis and improved health outcomes.


Keywords

depression; screening; mental health; PHQ-9; primary care; primary healthcare

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