Depression Screening by PHQ-2 Calculator

Created by Łukasz Białek, MD and Mariamy Chrdileli
Reviewed by Dominik Czernia, PhD candidate, Jack Bowater, Anna Szczepanek, PhD and Steven Wooding
Last updated: Apr 22, 2022

Why did we decide to create depression screening by PHQ-2 calculator? Due to its increasing prevalence in modern society, depression screening should be an essential part of every doctor's professional life; however, it can be time-consuming. Depression screening tools like PHQ-2 are convenient and validated in the scientific literature.

This depression screening calculator uses two simple questions, so you only need to spend 30 seconds on it. In this text, you will learn about depression, depression symptoms, screening, and how to use this depression calculator.

Remember, if you suspect that you or one of your friends are struggling with depression – do not hesitate and contact a clinical psychologist.

What is depression? Symptoms of depression

When asking "what is depression," it is essential to consider that there are different types of depression. Although, according to DSM-V, the most common characteristics of all depressive disorders ("depression symptoms") are feelings of sadness, emptiness, and irritability, along with somatic and cognitive changes that intervene with an individual's everyday functioning. The difference between depressive disorders is often the duration, timing, and causes of the disorder.

We should remember that certain medical conditions are associated with depressive mood. These include:

  • Hypothyroidism;
  • Addison's and Cushing's disease;
  • Multiple sclerosis;
  • Brain tumors;
  • AIDS;
  • Cancer;
  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus; and
  • Other psychiatric disorders or addictions.

Major depressive disorder

Major depressive disorder is the most common depressive disorder where individuals may experience the following symptoms for two or more weeks:

  • Frequent feelings of sadness;
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed (anhedonia);
  • Significant weight changes, loss, or increase in appetite;
  • Sleep difficulties;
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation (e.g., pacing, rapid talking, or reduction of movements, and slowed speech);
  • Loss of energy;
  • Feelings of inappropriate guilt and worthlessness;
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions; and
  • Suicidal ideation.

Note that in the case of major depressive disorder, the abovementioned symptoms should cause significant impairment in an individual's life, and the episode should not be attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition.

Why should we screen for depression?

Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year. And one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life.

Globally, depression is responsible for more years lost to disability than any other disease.

This statistic is mainly because so many people suffer from it — approximately 350 million according to the World Health Organization (WHO) — and it can be highly recurrent. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded that there is sufficient evidence to recommend periodic screening for depression. Tools like the depressing screening by PHQ-2 calculator can be helpful for those who want to take a first step and screen for depression.

About the depression screening by PHQ-2 calculator

There are plenty of depression screening tools with different advantages and disadvantages and different sensitivity and specificity. PHQ-2 is a very simple tool, which can help screen patients for depression. This depression screening test was first published and described in the medical journal Medical Care in the article The Patient Health Questionnaire-2: Validity of a Two-Item Depression Screener. To use the depression screening tool, you need to answer only two questions:

Over the last two weeks, how often have you been bothered by the following problems:

  • Little interest or pleasure in doing things; and
  • Feeling down, depressed or hopeless.

You receive between 0 and 3 points for answering each question. The overall score (the PHQ-2 score) is the sum of the two questions. It represents the patient's specific risk of having a major or any depressive disorder compared to the average population. Moreover, the depression screening by PHQ-2 calculator also tells you about the positive predictive value (PPV) – how probable it is that you suffer from major or any depressive disorders. You may find detailed information on the PPV percentages for PHQ-2 in the table below:

PHQ-2 Score

Major Depressive Disorder PPV

Any Depressive Disorder PPV

1

15.4%

36.9%

2

21.1%

48.3%

3

38.4%

75.0%

4

45.4%

81.2%

5

56.4%

84.6%

6

78.6%

92.9%

Example of the depression screening test

Now let us show you how to use our depression screening calculator and what the results mean:

  1. Answer two simple questions – about your mood and anhedonia (lack of pleasure).
  2. Look at the results
    • The PHQ-2 Score is your result – if it is three or more, you should consult a clinical psychologist! You may also find the PPV for this score in the table above.
    • Major depressive disorder likelihood ratio – this is your risk of having major depression. If it is below one, your risk is lower than in the general population.
    • Any depressive disorder likelihood ratio – this is your risk of having any type of depression. If it is below one, your risk is lower than in the general population.
  3. That's it! Isn't this depression calculator simple?

Now let's discuss an example. Imagine a guy who has lost interest in activities he previously enjoyed for several days in the last two weeks. He has been feeling down and hopeless almost every day. Depression screening by PHQ-2 calculator would score him with 1 + 3 = 4 points. His risk of major depression would be 5.5 times larger than the general population average, and the risk of having any type of depression would be 15.7 times greater than the general population average. These scores indicate that it is highly probable that he is suffering from depression – he should definitely consult with a clinical psychologist!

FAQ

What is a depression screening test?

Depression screening tests help diagnose and detect the potential risk for depression. Screening instruments for depression include PHQ-2, PHQ-9, and Geriatric Depression Scale for older adults.

What causes major depression?

There are many risk factors that may contribute to the development of the major depressive disorder, including stress, social withdrawal, separation, loss of a loved one, ongoing physical pain, alcohol and drugs, and certain personality traits such as low self-esteem.

How do I overcome depression?

Besides the obvious step of getting professional help and starting therapy, you can do the following to improve your quality of life and alleviate depressive symptoms:

  1. Improve your sleep hygiene.
  2. Eat healthily and exercise.
  3. Practice mindfulness.
  4. Surround yourself with a support system, and socialize with loved ones.
  5. Try to avoid engaging in destructive coping behaviors such as consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or drugs.
  6. Develop a daily routine that is feasible for you!
  7. Engage in positive self-talk.

Is depression treatable?

If you or your loved ones are struggling with depression, don't worry, depression is treatable! Treatments for depression include but are not limited to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), counseling, and antidepressants,

Łukasz Białek, MD and Mariamy Chrdileli
Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by the following problems?
Little interest or pleasure in doing things
Select...
Feeling down, depressed or hopeless
Select...
PHQ-2 score
Major depressive disorder likelihood ratio
Any depressive disorder likelihood ratio
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