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Fam Pract. 2015 Jun;32(3):359-63. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmv011. Epub 2015 Mar 23.

Diagnosis of depressed young people--criterion validity of WHO-5 and HSCL-6 in Denmark and Norway.

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Research Unit for General Practice, Institute for Public Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark and
Research Unit for General Practice, Institute for Public Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark and.
Department of General Practice and Community Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.



According to the World Health Organization, depression ranks as a major contributor to the global burden of disease. A large proportion of adult depressions had their first appearance in adolescence. Brief and reliable rating scales are needed for early detection.


The aim of this study is to validate the WHO-5 and the HSCL-6 for detection of depression among adolescents.


The project is a GP multicentre study conducted in Denmark and Norway. A total of 294 adolescents (14-16 years) responded by answering a paper- or web-based questionnaire and later completed a Composite International Diagnostic Interview, which was used as the gold standard. Depression was defined by ICD-10 criteria. Criterion validity was examined, the likelihood ratios measured and cut-offs for depression were calculated using the Youden index.


The prevalence of depression was 11.8% in our sample. The optimal cut-off point was 11 for the WHO-5 test and 9 for the HSCL-6 test. There were no gender differences. For the WHO-5 and the HSCL-6, respectively, the sensitivity was 0.88 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.74-0.96] and 0.85 (95% CI: 0.70-0.94), the specificity was 0.80 (95% CI: 0.75-0.85) and 0.79 (95% CI: 0.74-0.84) and the likelihood ratio was 4.5 and 3.8 (P = 0.39). We observed no statistically significant diagnostic differences with respect to nationality or administration procedure.


The WHO-5 and the HSCL-6 may both serve as valid case finding instruments for depression in young people in primary care.


Adolescent; brief psychiatric rating scale; depression; mass screening; primary health care; sensitivity and specificity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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