Table 1. Characteristics of Case-Finding Instruments Used to Detect Depression in Adults in Primary Care Settings

Screening for Depression in Adults: Summary of the Evidence

The summaries of the evidence briefly present evidence of effectiveness for preventive health services used in primary care clinical settings, including screening tests, counseling, and chemoprevention. They summarize the more detailed Systematic Evidence Reviews, which are used by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) to make recommendations.
Instrument Items, n2 Time Frame of Questions Score Range Usual Cut-Point 3 Literacy Level 4 Administration Time, min
Beck Depression Inventory 21 Today 0-63 Mild, 10; moderate, 20; severe, 30 Easy 2-5
Center for Epidemiologic Study Depression Screen 20 Past week 0-60 16 Easy 2-5
General Health Questionnaire 28 Past few weeks 0-28 4 Easy 5-10
Medical Outcomes Study Depression Screen 8 Past week 0-1 0.06 Average < 2
Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders 2 Past month 0-2 1 Average < 2
Symptom Driven Diagnostic System-Primary Care 5 Past month 0-4 2 Easy < 2
Zung Self-Assessment Depression Scale 20 Recently 25-100 Mild, 50; moderate, 60; severe, 70 Easy 2-5

1 Adapted from reference 10.
2 Item numbers for the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders and the Symptom Driven Diagnostic System-Primary Care refer to depression questions only. Several instruments now have shortened versions as well.
3 The cut-point is the number at or above which the test is considered positive.
4 "Easy" is a third- to fifth-grade reading level, and "average" is a sixth- to ninth-grade reading level, according to the fog formula.

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Page last reviewed April 2013
Page originally created April 2013
Internet Citation: Table 1. Characteristics of Case-Finding Instruments Used to Detect Depression in Adults in Primary Care Settings. Content last reviewed April 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/clinicians-providers/resources/depression/depsumtab1.html
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