Self-reported distress: analog or Ersatz depression?

Psychol Bull. 1994 Jul;116(1):29-45. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.116.1.29.


Vredenburg, Flett, and Krames's (1993) conclusion that self-reported distress in college students is an appropriate analog for diagnosable depression is examined in light of a broader literature. Self-reported distress is conceptually and empirically distinct from depression and depressive symptoms. Distress has stronger correlates with common psychological and social factors. Distress in college students tends to be mild and transient, and most distressed college students are not depressed. Some other features of college life also make generalizations to clinical and community samples of adults problematic. Overall, ubiquitous misunderstandings in the literature have limited recognition of the pitfalls of studying distress as an analog for diagnosable depression. It is undesirable for reasons of science, social responsibility, and the credibility of psychological models of depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Life Change Events
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Self-Assessment
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Students / psychology*
  • Universities