Alexithymia in the German general population

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2008 Jan;43(1):54-62. doi: 10.1007/s00127-007-0265-1. Epub 2007 Oct 12.


The Toronto-Alexithymia-Scale (TAS-20) is used worldwide as a valid measurement of alexithymia. Until now, population-based standardization and cut-off values of the German TAS-20 version have not been available. This study provides these by means of a representative German sample and by investigating the factorial structure of the TAS-20. Data were generated from a representative random sample of the German general population (1,859 subjects aged between 20 and 69). The TAS-20 sum score was normally distributed. The mean value was 49.5 (SD=9.3) in men and 48.2 (SD=9.2) in women. Divorce, single and low social status were associated with enhanced sum scores. Ten percent of the population exceeded the TAS-20 sum score threshold of >or=61. The 66th percentile reached 53 for men and 52 for women. Factor analysis identified three factors that match the scales of the English original version. An additional fourth factor ("importance of emotional introspection") was extracted. Total explanation of variance by these four factors was 52.27%. The sum score of the German TAS-20 version is suited for the standardized measure of alexithymia. For selecting alexithymic individuals in experimental studies, the cut-off >or=61 is possibly too restrictive. Therefore, we propose the 66th percentile for the identification of high alexithymics. The TAS-20 sum score is associated with important socio-demographic variables. The factorial structure is reliable; the fourth factor ("importance of emotional introspection") provides differentiation of content and allows for enhanced explanation of variance.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis
  • Affective Symptoms / ethnology*
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology
  • Aged
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data