Diagnostic accuracy of the Whooley depression tool in older adults in UK primary care

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PURPOSE OF RESEARCH: To validate the Whooley questions as a screening tool for depression amongst a population of older adults in UK primary care.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the diagnostic performance of the Whooley questions as a screening tool for depression amongst older adults in UK primary care.

PARTICIPANTS: A cross-sectional validation study was conducted with 766 patients aged ≥75 from UK primary care, recruited via 17 general practices based in the North of England during the pilot phase of a randomized controlled trial.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Sensitivity, specificity and likelihood ratios comparing the index test (two Whooley questions) with a diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD) ascertained by the reference standard Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI).

RESULTS: The two screening questions had a sensitivity of 94.3% (95% confidence interval, 80.8-99.3%) and specificity of 62.7% (95% confidence interval, 59.0-66.2%). The likelihood ratio for a positive test was 2.5 (95% confidence interval, 2.2-2.9) and the likelihood ratio for a negative test was 0.09 (95% confidence interval, 0.02-0.35).

CONCLUSION: The two Whooley questions missed few cases of depression. However, they were responsible for a high rate of false positives. This creates additional burden on general practitioners, to conduct more detailed investigation on patients who screen positive, but many of whom turn out not to have MDD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-43
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of affective disorders
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2015

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