Depression is a common mental disorder; effective methods for treating it are also available. Its recognition and diagnosis are prerequisite to effective treatment. A majority of depressed patients are generally managed in the primary care setting; only a half of the cases, however, are identified at their first visit. Screening instruments to improve recognition of depression have therefore been developed. The Depression Scale (DEPS), consisting of 10 items, was developed and tested in primary care patients aged 18 to 64 years. Clinical assessments were made on the basis of Present State Examination interviews with 436 patients. The DEPS proved to be satisfactory. Increasing age and poor education had an adverse effect on the screening process, however. The sensitivity of the DEPS for clinical depression was 74% and the specificity for non-depression 85%. The sensitivity for severe depression was 84% and the specificity for symptom-free patients 93%. The DEPS seems to improve the recognition of depression in primary care and may also be suitable for screening depression in the general population and for identifying high-risk groups.