Detecting and monitoring depression with a two-item questionnaire (PHQ-2)

Bernd Löwe, Kurt Kroenke, Kerstin Gräfe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

531 Scopus citations


Objective: This study evaluates the two-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-2) as a measure for diagnosing and monitoring depression. Methods: We assessed construct validity in a cross-sectional sample of 1619 medical outpatients (mean age 43±14 years, 64% female) by comparing the PHQ-2 to four longer self-report questionnaires. Criterion validity was established in a subsample of 520 participants with reference to the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID). Sensitivity to change was investigated in a prospective study of 167 patients who completed the SCID both at baseline and the 1-year follow-up. Results: With reference to the SCID, the PHQ-2 had a sensitivity of 87% and a specificity of 78% for major depressive disorder and a sensitivity of 79% and a specificity of 86% for any depressive disorder. Its diagnostic performance was comparable with that of longer depression scales. PHQ-2 change scores accurately reflected improved, unchanged, and deteriorated depression outcomes. Conclusion: The PHQ-2 performed favorably with respect to a standard diagnostic interview, as well as established depression scales and proved sensitive to change. Thus, the PHQ-2 appears promising as a brief multipurpose measure for detecting depression, grading its severity, and monitoring outcomes over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-171
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005


  • Depressive disorders
  • Diagnosis
  • Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-2)
  • Questionnaires
  • Reproducibility of results
  • Sensitivity and specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Psychology(all)

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