Self-report of depressive symptoms in African American and white women in primary care

J Natl Med Assoc. 2010 May;102(5):389-95. doi: 10.1016/s0027-9684(15)30573-3.


Objectives: Depressive symptoms are frequently seen among female patients in primary care. The majority of screening instruments are cumbersome for a busy clinic.

Method: The effectiveness of a 2-item depression screening questionnaire was compared to the mental health section of the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36). A total of 127 consecutive patients who presented for primary care service agreed to participate and completed the questionnaire.

Results: Of the final sample, 65.4% were African American and 44.9% of all women reported having depressive symptoms, with no significant difference in the prevalence of reported depressive symptoms between African American and white women (chi2 = 1.97, p = .16). The women reporting depressive symptoms were more likely to be in the lower-income group (chi2 = 9.02, p = .01); however, in stratified analysis this was only significant for the African American women (chi2 = 8.69, p = .01). Analysis of variance demonstrated that the women with depressive symptoms were more likely to score low on the mental health subscales of the SF-36 when adjusted for income (F = 58.32, P < .0001). Within race groups, the mean Mental Health Index scores were higher among African American women (t = -6.45, P <.0001) and White women (t = -3.59, P = .002) who reported depressive symptoms than among those who did not report depressive symptoms. The sensitivity and specificity of the 2-item depression symptom questions compared to the overall SF-36 mental health score were 70% and 77%, respectively.

Conclusion: A simple 2-item questionnaire can be used to identify depressive symptoms in white and African American women in a primary care clinic.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans*
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / ethnology
  • European Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Louisiana / epidemiology
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Morbidity
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Women's Health*