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A depression rating scale is a psychiatric measuring instrument having descriptive words and phrases that indicate the severity of depression symptoms for a time period.[1] When used, an observer may make judgements and rate a person at a specified scale level with respect to identified characteristics. Rather than being used to diagnose depression, a depression rating scale may be used to assign a score to a person's behaviour where that score may be used to determine whether that person should be evaluated more thoroughly for a depressive disorder diagnosis.[1] Several rating scales are used for this purpose.[1]

Scales completed by researchers

Some depression rating scales are completed by researchers. For example, the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale includes 21 questions with between 3 and 5 possible responses which increase in severity. The clinician must choose the possible responses to each question by interviewing the patient and by observing the patient's symptoms. Designed by psychiatrist Max Hamilton in 1960, the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale is one of the two most commonly used among those completed by researchers assessing the effects of drug therapy.[2][3] Alternatively, the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale has ten items to be completed by researchers assessing the effects of drug therapy and is the other of the two most commonly used among such researchers.[2][4] Other scale is the Raskin Depression Rating Scale; which rates the severity of the patients symptoms in three areas: verbal reports, behavior, and secondary symptoms of depression.[5]

Scales completed by patients

The two questions on the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2):[6]

During the past month, have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?

During the past month, have you often been bothered by little interest or pleasure in doing things?

Some depression rating scales are completed by patients. The Beck Depression Inventory, for example, is a 21-question self-report inventory that covers symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, weight loss, lack of interest in sex, and feelings of guilt, hopelessness or fear of being punished.[7] The scale is completed by patients to identify the presence and severity of symptoms consistent with the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria.[8] The Beck Depression Inventory was originally designed by psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck in 1961.[7]

The Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) is another self-administered scale, but in this case it is used for older patients, and for patients with mild to moderate dementia. Instead of presenting a five-category response set, the GDS questions are answered with a simple "yes" or "no".[9][10] The Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale is similar to the Geriatric Depression Scale in that the answers are preformatted. In the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale, there are 20 items: ten positively-worded and ten negatively-worded. Each question is rated on a scale of 1 through 4 based on four possible answers: "a little of the time", "some of the time", "good part of the time", and "most of the time".[11]

The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) sets are self-reported depression rating scales. For example, the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) is a self-reported, 9-question version of the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders.[12] The Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2) is a shorter version of the PHQ-9 with two screening questions to assess the presence of a depressed mood and a loss of interest or pleasure in routine activities; a positive response to either question indicates further testing is required.[6]

Scales completed by patients and researchers

The Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD) is completed by the patient and a researcher. This depression rating scale includes a 27-item screening questionnaire and follow-up clinician interview designed to facilitate the diagnosis of common mental disorders in primary care. Its lengthy administration time has limited its clinical usefulness.[12]


Screening programs using rating scales to search for candidates for a more in-depth evaluation have been advocated to improve detection of depression, but there is evidence that they do not improve detection rates, treatment, or outcome.[13] There is also evidence that a consensus on the interpretation of rating scales, in particular the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, is largely missing, leading to misdiagnosis of the severity of a patients depression. [14]

See also

  • Diagnostic classification and rating scales used in psychiatry


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Sharp LK, Lipsky MS (September 2002). "Screening for depression across the lifespan: a review of measures for use in primary care settings". American Family Physician 66 (6): 1001–8. PMID 12358212.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Demyttenaere K, De Fruyt J (2003). "Getting what you ask for: on the selectivity of depression rating scales". Psychotherapy and psychosomatics 72 (2): 61–70. doi:10.1159/000068690. PMID 12601223.
  3. Hamilton M (1960). "A rating scale for depression". Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 23: 56–62. doi:10.1136/jnnp.23.1.56. PMC 495331. PMID 14399272.
  4. Montgomery SA, Asberg M (April 1979). "A new depression scale designed to be sensitive to change". British Journal of Psychiatry 134: 382–9. doi:10.1192/bjp.134.4.382. PMID 444788.
  5. Raskin A, Schulterbrandt J, Reatig N, McKeon JJ (January 1969). "Replication of factors of psychopathology in interview, ward behavior and self-report ratings of hospitalized depressives". J. Nerv. Ment. Dis. 148 (1): 87–98. doi:10.1097/00005053-196901000-00010. PMID 5768895.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Whooley MA, Avins AL, Miranda J, Browner WS (July 1997). "Case-finding instruments for depression. Two questions are as good as many". J Gen Intern Med 12 (7): 439–45. doi:10.1046/j.1525-1497.1997.00076.x. PMC 1497134. PMID 9229283.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Beck AT (1972). Depression: Causes and treatment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 333. ISBN 0-8122-1032-8.
  8. "Beck Depression Inventory — 2nd Edition". Nova Southeastern University Center for Center for Psychological Studies. http://www.cps.nova.edu/~cpphelp/BDI2.html. Retrieved 2008-10-17.
  9. Yesavage JA (1988). "Geriatric Depression Scale". Psychopharmacology Bulletin 24 (4): 709–11. PMID 3249773.
  10. Katz IR (1998). "Diagnosis and treatment of depression in patients with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias". The Journal of clinical psychiatry 59 Suppl 9: 38–44. PMID 9720486.
  11. Zung WW (January 1965). "A self-rating depression scale". Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 12: 63–70. PMID 14221692.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Spitzer RL, Kroenke K, Williams JB (November 1999). "Validation and utility of a self-report version of PRIME-MD: The PHQ primary care study. Primary care evaluation of mental disorders. Patient Health Questionnaire". Journal of the American Medical Association 282 (18): 1737–44. doi:10.1001/jama.282.18.1737. PMID 10568646.
  13. Gilbody S, House AO, Sheldon TA (2005). "Screening and case finding instruments for depression". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4): CD002792. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002792.pub2. PMID 16235301. http://www.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab002792.html.
  14. Template:Cite pmid

no:Skåringsverktøy for depresjon