Depression prevalence using the HADS-D compared to SCID major depression classification: An individual participant data meta-analysis

J Psychosom Res. 2020 Dec:139:110256. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2020.110256. Epub 2020 Sep 23.


Objectives: Validated diagnostic interviews are required to classify depression status and estimate prevalence of disorder, but screening tools are often used instead. We used individual participant data meta-analysis to compare prevalence based on standard Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale - depression subscale (HADS-D) cutoffs of ≥8 and ≥11 versus Structured Clinical Interview for DSM (SCID) major depression and determined if an alternative HADS-D cutoff could more accurately estimate prevalence.

Methods: We searched Medline, Medline In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations via Ovid, PsycINFO, and Web of Science (inception-July 11, 2016) for studies comparing HADS-D scores to SCID major depression status. Pooled prevalence and pooled differences in prevalence for HADS-D cutoffs versus SCID major depression were estimated.

Results: 6005 participants (689 SCID major depression cases) from 41 primary studies were included. Pooled prevalence was 24.5% (95% Confidence Interval (CI): 20.5%, 29.0%) for HADS-D ≥8, 10.7% (95% CI: 8.3%, 13.8%) for HADS-D ≥11, and 11.6% (95% CI: 9.2%, 14.6%) for SCID major depression. HADS-D ≥11 was closest to SCID major depression prevalence, but the 95% prediction interval for the difference that could be expected for HADS-D ≥11 versus SCID in a new study was -21.1% to 19.5%.

Conclusions: HADS-D ≥8 substantially overestimates depression prevalence. Of all possible cutoff thresholds, HADS-D ≥11 was closest to the SCID, but there was substantial heterogeneity in the difference between HADS-D ≥11 and SCID-based estimates. HADS-D should not be used as a substitute for a validated diagnostic interview.

Keywords: Depression; Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale; Individual participant data; Meta-analysis; Screening tools.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / classification
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence