Screening for major depression in the early stages of multiple sclerosis

Can J Neurol Sci. 1995 Aug;22(3):228-31. doi: 10.1017/s0317167100039895.


Background: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is associated with a high risk of developing major depression, but depression in MS patients frequently goes undetected and untreated. The current study examined the clinical utility of the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) as a screening measure for major depression in newly diagnosed MS patients.

Methods: Forty-six new referrals to an MS clinic completed the BDI and participated in a structured interview for major depression, within 2 months of the diagnosis of MS.

Results: According to DSM-III-R criteria, 40% of patients were diagnosed with major depression, 22% had adjustment disorder with depressed mood, and 37% showed no evidence of mood disorder. Sensitivity and specificity values, and positive and negative predictive values are reported for every BDI cut-off score between 9 and 21.

Conclusions: A BDI cut-off score of 13 (sensitivity = .71, specificity = .79) is recommended as optimal for use in screening for major depression in newly diagnosed MS patients. The use of the BDI as a screening measure for major depression must proceed with caution given that a cut-off score of 13 still yielded a false-negative rate of 30%.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder / complications*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity