Comparability of telephone and face-to-face interviews in assessing axis I and II disorders

Am J Psychiatry. 1997 Nov;154(11):1593-8. doi: 10.1176/ajp.154.11.1593.


Objective: The present study examined the comparability of data obtained by telephone and face-to-face interviews for diagnosing axis I and II disorders.

Method: Sixty young adults from the community were interviewed face-to-face and over the telephone regarding axis I disorders; another 60 subjects were interviewed twice regarding axis II disorders. The order of interviews was counterbalanced, and subjects with a history of disorder were oversampled. Agreement between telephone and face-to-face interviews was contrasted with interrater values, which were obtained by having a second interviewer rate a recording of the original interview.

Results: Interrater reliability was excellent. Agreement between telephone and face-to-face assessment was excellent for anxiety disorders and very good for major depressive disorder and alcohol and substance use disorders; agreement was problematic, however, for adjustment disorder with depressed mood. Strong support was shown for the validity of the axis II telephone assessment format. Small but consistent trends were noted for lower rates of psychopathology reported in the second interview.

Conclusions: This is the first study in which telephone and face-to-face assessments of axis I and II psychopathology were conducted with the same subjects assigned to conditions in a counterbalanced manner. The present findings provide qualified justification for the use of telephone interviews to collect axis I and II data. The apparent concerns do not appear sufficient to override the economic and logistic advantages of telephone interviewing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data*
  • Remote Consultation* / economics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Telephone / economics
  • Telephone / statistics & numerical data
  • Terminology as Topic