New Screening Tool for Depression, Anxiety, PTSD


Specific negative environmental factors take a significant toll on the mental health of low income Latinos and African-Americans.

Because the effects of these factors are cumulative, frequent exposure is a predictor for adult anxiety, depression, and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

“The costs to society of these life experiences are substantial,” said researcher Hector Myers, formerly of UCLA, now Vanderbilt University. “We know there is a poorer overall quality of life, a loss of productivity, greater social dependency, disability, health and mental health care costs, and early mortality as a result of repeated experiences of stress and trauma.”

Discrimination and Violence

Five primary negative environmental factors, or domains, were identified by researchers, and used to create a screening tool called Life Adversities Screener, or LADS.

The five identified domains are:

  1. Experiencing racial, gender/sexual orientation, or ethnic discrimination.
  2. History of sexual abuse.
  3. History of family or intimate partner violence.
  4. History of violence in a person’s community.
  5. Having chronic fear of being seriously hurt or killed.

Research showed that the more people experienced these factors over time, the greater their risk for severe symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, or depression.

Only a tiny fraction of those dealing with the psychological distress of discrimination and violence are identified and treated. This prompted the development of the Life Adversities Screener.

Identifying Trauma Burden

The LADS is a set of questions that health care providers can use to determine the effects of adversity on patients. It is easy to administer and designed to capture information missed by other types of assessment.

“...LADS could be effective as a screening tool to identify ethnic and racial minority individuals in primary care settings who have a high trauma burden, and who need more extensive evaluation,” said LADS developer Honghu Liu. “This could optimize affordable care as it strives to improve prevention of mental health problems.”

Once individuals carrying a high trauma burden are identified, the next step is providing support, and the opportunity to learn how to cope with adversity and distress more effectively.

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: Nakamura Remy


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