The patient health questionnaire-15 and its abbreviated version as screening tools for depression in Korean college and graduate students

Younghyun C. Lyoo, Sejin Ju, Eunjung Kim, Jieun E. Kim, Junghyun H. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objective Over half of all suicides worldwide occur in Asia. Given the close association between suicide and depression, it is quite unexpected that depression is least frequently diagnosed in Asia. This is, in part, due to the fact that Asians somatize depression. Young adults including college and graduate students are no exceptions. Therefore, a somatic symptom-focused screening tool would be useful in detecting depression in Asian college and graduate students. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the psychometric properties of the Patient Health Questionnaire-15 (PHQ-15) in screening for depression among Korean college and graduate students. In addition, we developed an abbreviated version of the PHQ-15 (aPHQ-15) and studied validity measures. Methods Three-hundred and fifty Korean college and graduate students were screened with the PHQ-15. Of all participants, 176 were interviewed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV to diagnose major depressive episode, while the other 174 were evaluated with the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) and the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology-Self-Report (IDS-SR). Reliability and validity measures including the internal consistency, test-retest reliability, and criterion, convergent, and divergent validity were tested. Principal component analysis was used in developing the abbreviated version of the PHQ-15. Results The PHQ-15 showed good internal consistency and test-retest reliability (Cronbach's alpha 0.82, intra-class correlation coefficient 0.87). The optimal cut-off point for detecting depression was estimated to be 8. There were strong correlations between the PHQ-15 total scores and self-report measures of depressive symptom severity (BDI-II: R = 0.69 and p < 0.001, IDS-SR: R = 0.77 and p < 0.001). The 5-item aPHQ-15 had comparable validity with the PHQ-15. Conclusions The somatic symptom-focused PHQ-15 and aPHQ-15 can work as effective screening tools for depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)743-748
Number of pages6
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed no proprietary or commercial interest in any product mentioned or concept discussed in this article. This work was supported by Global Top 5 program from the Ewha W. University; by A11200 supported by the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare; and by 2012R1A1A3012508 through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.


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