ED Patients with Prolonged Complaints and Repeat ED Visits Have an Increased Risk of Depression

West J Emerg Med. 2016 Sep;17(5):613-6. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2016.7.30801. Epub 2016 Aug 8.


Introduction: The objective of this study was to explore associations between presenting chief complaints of prolonged symptomatology, patient usage of the emergency department (ED), and underlying depression so that emergency physicians may better target patients for depression screening.

Methods: A convenience sample of ED patients were administered the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) to assess for depression. We correlated completed BDI-II surveys to patient information including demographics, pertinent history of present illness information, and past medical history.

Results: Out of 425 participants screened, we identified complaints of two weeks or longer in 92 patients (22%). Of these patients, mild to severe depression was recognized in over half of the population (47), yet only nine patients reported a prior depression diagnosis. These 92 patients also visited the ED three times as frequently as those patients with more acute complaints (p<0.001). Finally, our study showed that patients with mild to severe depression had three times as many ED visits compared to patients with minimal or no depression (p<0.001).

Conclusion: Patients with complaints of symptomatology two weeks or longer are more likely to have underlying depression when presenting to the ED. Patients with three or more ED visits within the past year also have a greater incidence of underlying depression. We found a strong correlation between complaints with symptomatology of two weeks or longer and multiple ED visits, in which underlying depression may have contributed to these patients' ED visits.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires