Comparison of the accuracy of the 7-item HADS Depression subscale and 14-item total HADS for screening for major depression: A systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis

Psychol Assess. 2023 Feb;35(2):95-114. doi: 10.1037/pas0001181.


The seven-item Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale Depression subscale (HADS-D) and the total score of the 14-item HADS (HADS-T) are both used for major depression screening. Compared to the HADS-D, the HADS-T includes anxiety items and requires more time to complete. We compared the screening accuracy of the HADS-D and HADS-T for major depression detection. We conducted an individual participant data meta-analysis and fit bivariate random effects models to assess diagnostic accuracy among participants with both HADS-D and HADS-T scores. We identified optimal cutoffs, estimated sensitivity and specificity with 95% confidence intervals, and compared screening accuracy across paired cutoffs via two-stage and individual-level models. We used a 0.05 equivalence margin to assess equivalency in sensitivity and specificity. 20,700 participants (2,285 major depression cases) from 98 studies were included. Cutoffs of ≥7 for the HADS-D (sensitivity 0.79 [0.75, 0.83], specificity 0.78 [0.75, 0.80]) and ≥15 for the HADS-T (sensitivity 0.79 [0.76, 0.82], specificity 0.81 [0.78, 0.83]) minimized the distance to the top-left corner of the receiver operating characteristic curve. Across all sets of paired cutoffs evaluated, differences of sensitivity between HADS-T and HADS-D ranged from -0.05 to 0.01 (0.00 at paired optimal cutoffs), and differences of specificity were within 0.03 for all cutoffs (0.02-0.03). The pattern was similar among outpatients, although the HADS-T was slightly (not nonequivalently) more specific among inpatients. The accuracy of HADS-T was equivalent to the HADS-D for detecting major depression. In most settings, the shorter HADS-D would be preferred. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sensitivity and Specificity