Anxiety and depression screening for youth in a primary care population

Ambul Pediatr. May-Jun 2008;8(3):182-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ambp.2008.01.003. Epub 2008 Apr 11.


Objective: Prior studies have shown a low rate of accurate identification by primary care physicians of mental health disorders in youth. This study tested the psychometric properties of 2 brief mental health screening questionnaires, the Mood and Feelings Questionnaire, short form, (MFQ-SF) and Childhood Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI), in a large sample of youth.

Methods: In a sample of 1375 youth aged 11 to 17 (779 with asthma, 596 randomly selected controls) enrolled in a health maintenance organization, the psychometric properties (optimum cutoffs on receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curves, sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values) of 2 brief anxiety and depression screens were compared with a gold standard-structured psychiatric interview.

Results: Both the MFQ-SF and ASI performed well on ROC analysis for screening youth for 1 or more Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (DSM-IV) anxiety or depressive disorders. The MFQ-SF performed better on ROC analysis than the ASI for youth with major depression (area under the curve of 0.84 vs 0.77). For screening youth with anxiety disorders, ROC curves showed that both the MFQ-SF and ASI only performed in the fair range (area under the curve of 0.76).

Conclusion: The MFQ-SF and ASI are 2 relatively brief questionnaires that performed well for screening youth for 1 or more DSM-IV anxiety or depressive disorders. The MFQ-SF performed better than the ASI for screening youth with major depression. Use of these instruments could increase the accuracy of identification of mental health disorders in youth by primary care physicians.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology
  • Asthma / psychology
  • Child
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*