The PHQ-9 is a clinically-validated screening tool that healthcare providers use to screen for depression, and to diagnose and monitor the severity of depression. The PHQ-9 is similar to the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), but where the EPDS is designed to screen pregnant and postpartum women for depression, anyone can take the PHQ-9 and receive actionable results.
The PHQ-9 consists of nine questions that ask respondents how often they’ve “been bothered by any of the following problems” in the past two weeks. The questions address sleep, energy, appetite, and other possible symptoms of depression. Scores are calculated based on how frequently a person experiences these feelings.
Each “not at all” response is scored as 0; each “several days” response is 1; each “more than half the days” response is 2; and each “nearly every day” response is 3. The value of these responses added up gives you your total score.
- 1-4: This is considered minimal depression, which suggests that the respondent may not need depression treatment.
- 5-9: This is considered mild depression. In response to this result, healthcare providers can use their clinical judgment about treatment based on the duration and severity of symptoms.
- 10-14: This is considered moderate depression. Similar to mild depression, healthcare providers can use their clinical judgment and knowledge of the patient to figure out a course of treatment.
- 15-19: This is considered moderately severe depression. This generally leads to treatment for depression using medication, therapy, or a combination of the two.
- 20-27: This is considered severe depression. This is considered grounds for treatment for depression using medication, therapy, or a combination of the two.
What comes next?
Although a PHQ-9 score can clue you in to the presence of depression, your healthcare provider will probably consider other criteria as well when making a diagnosis or prescribing a course of treatment. However, a healthcare provider can only help you with mental health issues if you speak up, so learning more about your risk factors is a great way to get started.
- Will your health insurance cover mental health treatment?
- Consulting the PPD experts: the first conversation
- K. Kroenke, R.L. Splitzer, J.B. Williams. “The PHQ-9: validity of a brief depression severity measure.” Journal of General Internal Medicine. 16(9): 606-13. September 2001. Retrieved July 9 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11556941.
- “PHQ-9 depression scale.” AIMS Center. University of Washington. Retrieved July 9 2018. https://aims.uw.edu/resource-library/phq-9-depression-scale.