USPSTF: Primary-Care Screening No Benefit for Suicide

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No correlation between primary-care screenings and suicide prevention in teens and adults.

USPSTF: Not enough evidence supporting primary-care suicide screenings
USPSTF: Not enough evidence supporting primary-care suicide screenings

HealthDay News -- The United States Preventive Task Force (USPSTF) has updated its recommendation on the benefits and harms of suicide screening in primary-care settings, stating that evidence is insufficient to assess the impact of such services.

“In 2010, suicide accounted for more than 1.4 million years of potential life lost before age 85 years, or 4.3% of total years of potential life lost in the United States,” Michael L. LeFevre, MD, MSPH, wrote in a recommendation update published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Past studies estimated that 38% of adults (50% to 70% of older adults) visited their primary care provider within 1 month of dying by suicide. Nearly 90% of suicidal youths were seen in primary care during the previous 12 months,” continued LeFevre.

The USPSTF reviewed four studies that evaluated the accuracy of screening instruments to identify patients at increased risk for suicide. Study populations ranged from adolescents in outpatient care to primary-care patients aged 65 years and older. Each study used a different tool to screen patients for increased suicide risk.

Overall, no evidence was found that linked preventative screenings with decreased suicide risk.

“The USPSTF recognizes that clinical decisions involve more considerations than evidence alone,” wrote LeFevre. “Clinicians should understand the evidence but individualize decision making to the specific patient or situation.”

Here are resources the USPSTF has provided for suicide prevention:


  1. LeFevre M. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014; doi:10.7326/M14-0589
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