Validation of the PHQ-15 for somatoform disorder in the occupational health care setting

J Occup Rehabil. 2012 Mar;22(1):51-8. doi: 10.1007/s10926-011-9320-6.


Introduction: Within the occupational health setting, somatoform disorders are a frequent cause of sick leave. Few validated screening questionnaires for these disorders are available. The aim of this study is to validate the PHQ-15 in this setting.

Methods: In a cross-sectional study of 236 sicklisted employees, we studied the performance of the PHQ-15 in comparison with the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) as golden reference standard. We approached employees who were sick listed for a period longer than 6 weeks and shorter than 2 years for participation. This study was conducted on one location of a large occupation health service in the Netherlands, serving companies with more than 500 employees. All employees who returned the PHQ-15 were invited for the MINI interview. Specificity and sensitivity were calculated for optimal cut point and a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) was constructed.

Results: A total of 107 participants consented to participate in the MINI interview. A non-response analysis showed no significant differences between groups. According to the MINI, the prevalence of somatoform disorders was 21.5%, and the most frequent found disorder was a pain disorder. The PHQ-15 had an optimal cut point of 9 (patients scoring 9 or higher (≥9) were most likely to suffer from a somatoform disorder), with specificity and sensitivity equal to 61.9 and 56.5%, respectively. ROCs showed an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.63.

Conclusion: The PHQ-15 shows moderate sensitivity but limited efficiency with a cut point of 9 and can be a useful questionnaire in the occupational health setting.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / instrumentation*
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Occupational Health
  • Occupational Health Services
  • Prevalence
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*