Prevalence and characteristics of universal depression screening in U.S. College Health centers

Ivie English, Duncan G. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Introduction: Whereas universal depression screening has potential to increase identification of mental health concerns among college students, the prevalence of universal screening in college health centers is unknown. This study provides an estimate of the prevalence of universal depression screening at public, 4-year universities in the United States. It also documents systems-level facilitators and correlates of universal screening, as well as reasons for not screening. Method: Online cross-sectional survey of college health center directors and student health personnel of public 4-year universities. Results: There were 131 participants who responded to the survey (25% response): 64.2% (54-74%; 95% confidence interval [CI]) of respondents reported that their clinics use universal depression screening. Characteristics associated with universal depression screening use clustered around systems-level resources, including larger student populations and health care staff, greater perceived financial resources, and shorter estimates of time required for screening. Universal screening use was also associated with respondents' awareness of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation, agreement with the evidence base supporting universal depression screening, and beliefs that codified standards support effective care. Leading reasons for not screening included: lack of mental health professionals, provider reluctance, liability concerns, and lack of clinic space. Discussion: Universal depression screening is reasonably common among college health centers. Care planner discussions regarding depression screening initiatives should address resource concerns, awareness of the USPSTF recommendation and evidence base, and information about the average time it takes to screen. Future research should examine functional outcomes and implementation experiences of college health centers that have adopted universal depression screening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-149
Number of pages19
JournalFamilies, Systems and Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • College health center
  • Depression
  • Student health
  • Universal depression screening


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