Screening for depression among patients with multiple sclerosis: two questions may be enough

Mult Scler. 2007 Mar;13(2):215-9. doi: 10.1177/1352458506070926.


Background: Depression among patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) is common and has a significant impact on quality of life. As many as two-thirds of depressed MS patients receive no treatment for their depression. While guidelines for depression management suggest screening, the only validated screening tools are questionnaires, which have not been widely implemented in practice. This is the first study on the effectiveness of using two questions assessing mood and anhedonia (loss of interest or pleasure) in screening for major depressive disorder (MDD) in MS.

Methods: MS patients under the care of neurologists were recruited from a large health maintenance organization (HMO). The MDD module of the Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-IV and screening questions was administered.

Results: Of the 260 participants, 26% met the criteria for MDD. Among patients with MDD, 67% received no anti-depressant medication. The MDD screen identified 99% (95% CI: 91-100%) of cases.

Discussion: A brief, two question screen is reliable in identifying MS patients with MDD. This suggests that asking these two brief questions could identify almost all MS patients meeting MDD criteria, with minimal numbers of false positives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*