Who is willing to participate in research? A screening model for an anxiety and depression trial in the epilepsy clinic

Epilepsy Behav. 2020 Mar;104(Pt A):106907. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2020.106907. Epub 2020 Jan 27.


Objective: Anxiety and depression in epilepsy are prevalent, associated with poor outcomes, underrecognized, undertreated, and thus a key area of need for treatment research. The objective of this study was to assess factors associated with research participation among epilepsy clinic patients who screened positive for anxiety or depression. This was accomplished by characterizing clinical and psychiatric factors among patients seen in an epilepsy clinic and evaluating which factors were associated with consent for potential research participation, via a combined clinical and research screening model.

Methods: In a pragmatic trial of anxiety and depression treatment in epilepsy, individuals with a positive screen for anxiety and/or depression at a routine epilepsy clinic visit were invited to opt-in (via brief electronic consent) to further eligibility assessment for a randomized treatment study. Information on psychiatric symptoms and treatment characteristics were collected for dual clinical care and research screening purposes. Cross-sectional association of demographic, clinical, and psychiatric factors with opting-in to research was analyzed by multiple logistic regression.

Results: Among N = 199 unique adults with a first positive screen for anxiety and/or depression among 786 total screening events, 154 (77.4%) opted-in to further potential research assessment. Higher depression scores and current treatment with an antidepressant were independently associated with opting-in to research (depression odds ratio (OR) = 1.13 per 1-point increase in Neurological Disorders Depression Inventory-Epilepsy (NDDI-E) score, p = 0.028, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.01-1.26; antidepressant OR = 2.37, p = 0.041, CI: 1.04-5.41). Nearly half of the 199 individuals (43.7%) with anxiety and/or depression symptoms were already being treated with an antidepressant, and 46.7% were receiving neither antidepressant therapy nor mental health specialty care. One-quarter (24.1%) reported a past psychiatric hospitalization, yet only half of these individuals were receiving mental health specialty care.

Significance: Our results demonstrate a high willingness to participate in research using a brief electronic consent approach at a routine clinic visit. Adults with persistent anxiety or depression symptoms despite antidepressant therapy and those with higher depression scores were more willing to consider a randomized treatment study. This has implications for future study design, as individuals already on treatment or those with more severe symptoms are often excluded from traditional research designs. We also found a high burden of psychiatric disease and high prevalence of persistent symptoms despite ongoing antidepressant treatment.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Epilepsy; Pragmatic trial; Research participation; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation / methods*
  • Patient Participation / psychology
  • Prospective Studies


  • Antidepressive Agents