The Patient Health Questionnaire Somatic, Anxiety, and Depressive Symptom Scales: a systematic review

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. Jul-Aug 2010;32(4):345-59. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2010.03.006. Epub 2010 May 7.

Abstract

Background: Depression, anxiety and somatization are the most common mental disorders in primary care as well as medical specialty populations; each is present in at least 5-10% of patients and frequently comorbid with one another. An efficient means for measuring and monitoring all three conditions would be desirable.

Methods: Evidence regarding the psychometric and pragmatic characteristics of the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)-9 depression, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)-7 anxiety and PHQ-15 somatic symptom scales are synthesized from two sources: (1) four multisite cross-sectional studies (three conducted in primary care and one in obstetric-gynecology practices) comprising 9740 patients, and (2) key studies from the literature that have studied these scales.

Results: The PHQ-9 and its abbreviated eight-item (PHQ-8) and two-item (PHQ-2) versions have good sensitivity and specificity for detecting depressive disorders. Likewise, the GAD-7 and its abbreviated two-item (GAD-2) version have good operating characteristics for detecting generalized anxiety, panic, social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. The optimal cutpoint is > or = 10 on the parent scales (PHQ-9 and GAD-7) and > or = 3 on the ultra-brief versions (PHQ-2 and GAD-2). The PHQ-15 is equal or superior to other brief measures for assessing somatic symptoms and screening for somatoform disorders. Cutpoints of 5, 10 and 15 represent mild, moderate and severe symptom levels on all three scales. Sensitivity to change is well-established for the PHQ-9 and emerging albeit not yet definitive for the GAD-7 and PHQ-15.

Conclusions: The PHQ-9, GAD-7 and PHQ-15 are brief well-validated measures for detecting and monitoring depression, anxiety and somatization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nursing Homes
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychometrics
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires* / standards