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J Affect Disord. 2013 May 15;148(1):77-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.11.052. Epub 2012 Dec 14.

A comparison of the PRIME-MD PHQ-9 and PHQ-8 in a large military prospective study, the Millennium Cohort Study.

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Deployment Health Research Department, Naval Health Research Center, San Diego, CA, USA.



In light of increased concerns about suicide in the military, institutional review boards have mandated increased scrutiny of the final item on the depression screening tool, the PHQ-9, which asks about suicidal thoughts. Since real-time monitoring of all individual responses in most observational studies is not feasible, many investigators have adopted the PHQ-8, choosing to remove the ninth item. This study compares the performance of the PHQ-8 with the PHQ-9 in a population-based sample of military or nonmilitary subjects.


The Millennium Cohort Study administers a self-reported questionnaire that includes the PHQ-9 at 3-year intervals to current and former U.S. military personnel. PHQ-9 responses of 143,705 Millennium Cohort members were investigated. Cross-sectional comparisons of the PHQ-9 and PHQ-8 and prospective analyses to detect a 5-unit change in these measures were performed.


Greater than substantial agreement was found between the PHQ-8 and 9 instruments (kappas, 0.966-0.974 depending on survey cycle). There was similarly high agreement between the PHQ-8 and 9 in detecting a 5-point increase (κ=0.987) or decrease (κ=0.984) in score.


One potential limitation of this study is that participants completed the PHQ-9, and PHQ-8 scores were extrapolated from the PHQ-9. In addition, the Millennium Cohort may not fully represent the U.S. military; though previous evaluations have shown the cohort to be a well-representative sample.


Since excellent agreement was detected between the PHQ-8 and PHQ-9 instruments, the PHQ-8 would capture nearly all the same cases of depression as the PHQ-9 in populations similar to the one in this study.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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