Revising axis V for DSM-IV: a review of measures of social functioning

Am J Psychiatry. 1992 Sep;149(9):1148-56. doi: 10.1176/ajp.149.9.1148.


Objective: Axis V, which uses the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale in the multiaxial system of DSM-III-R, is under review for DSM-IV. This article examines what is known about axis V and selectively reviews the literature on measures of social functioning to identify potential alternatives to the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale.

Method: About 25 studies on the use, reliability, and validity of axis V in DSM-III and DSM-III-R are reviewed. In addition, nearly 30 measures of social functioning are reviewed and analyzed as potential substitutes for the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale. The analysis focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of each measure for assessing functioning on axis V.

Results: Axis V measures are modestly reliable and valid but not widely used. The authors identify and discuss two particular limitations of the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale: 1) the combination of measures of symptoms and measures of social functioning on a single axis and 2) the exclusion of physical impairments from the rating of functioning.

Conclusions: None of the measures of social functioning reviewed is clearly superior to the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale for use on axis V. A modified version of the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale, separating the measures of social and occupational functioning from the measures of symptoms and psychological functioning, is proposed for field testing, along with a new set of instructions permitting the rating of limitations due to both physical and mental impairments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disabled Persons / classification
  • Employment
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / classification
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Occupations
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / standards
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Terminology as Topic