Acne treatment inversely related to screening for positive depression in adolescents and young adults

The following article is part of our coverage of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD 2021) Annual Meeting which is being held virtually April 23-25, 2021. Dermatology advisorCompany staff will report on the most advanced research in dermatological advancements and clinical care. Check back for the latest news from AAD 2021.

An inverse relationship between acne treatment and positive depression screening scores was found by researchers at a dermatology clinic, according to study results presented at the American Academy of Dermatology’s Virtual Meeting Experience (AAD VMX) 2021, held online April 23-25, 2021..

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Previous studies have established a positive link between the treatment of acne and depression and suicidal ideation. Investigators gave eligible patients ages 11 to 29 the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2) screening for depression, and dermatologists reviewed their scores. Of the 170 patients screened, 20 (11.8%) tested positive for depression.

Positive depression screens were strongly associated with a history of depression, with 33% of positive PHQ-2s occurring in patients with a history of depression and 8% in those without previous depressive episodes (P = .0014).

An inverse relationship was observed between oral acne treatment and a positive screening for depression (aOR 0.18, 95% CI, 0.03-1.08, P = 0.06). An inverse relationship was also observed between treatment with isotretinoin and screening positive for depression (aOR 0.11, 95% CI, 0.01-1.27, P = 0.08).

Investigators found that adding depression screening to dermatology visits did not negatively affect provider workflow, especially since the PHQ-2 is a brief 2-question test that can be administered by a medical assistant.

The study was limited by the limited availability of the technology at the clinic. “In the future, we aim to administer PHQ-2 in the electronic medical record to facilitate automatic documentation in patient records,” investigators said.


Lor M, Lonowksi S, Vandiver A, Patel N, Cheng CE. Screening adolescents with acne for depression. Presented at: American Academy of Dermatology (AAD VMX) Virtual Meeting Experience 2021; April 23-25, 2021. Summary / Poster 27260.

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