The PHQ-2 as a Screening Tool for Clinical Depression in a Primary Eye-Care Clinic

  • Steven H. Schwartz, OD, MA, PhD
  • Matias DellaBella, OD, MS
  • Leon Nehmad, OD, MSW
Keywords: depression, dysthymia, PHQ-2, screening, primary eye care


Purpose: Screening tests for clinical depression, a highly prevalent and often disabling condition, have not been investigated in primary-care eye settings. The purpose of the present study was to determine the percent of patients in an urban primary-care eye clinic who fail the PHQ-2 screening tool. The PHQ-2 is an ultra-short screener consisting of 2 items regarding mood and anhedonia.

Methods: The two-question PHQ-2 was administered (as part of a larger questionnaire that included data on gender, age, and ethnicity) to patients seated in the Primary Care Clinic of the SUNY College of Optometry [University Eye Center] in Manhattan, NY. A total of 739 surveys were completed over a two-month period, with a completion rate of 69%. All surveys were completed anonymously, and unfinished surveys were not included in the final data set.

Results: The demographics collected in this study mirror those of the population that this clinic serves; overall very diverse, with good representation from each age group. Thirteen percent of the sample received a score of 3 or higher, the standard cutoff score for failure of the PHQ-2.

Conclusions: The failure rate on the PHQ-2 in a primary eye-care, urban population approaches that found in general medical practice, suggesting similar rates of clinical depression. Thus, the PHQ-2 may be a beneficial tool for screening for depression, however, it is important to follow-up with a referral to a mental health specialist.

How to Cite
Schwartz, S., DellaBella, M., & Nehmad, L. (2018). The PHQ-2 as a Screening Tool for Clinical Depression in a Primary Eye-Care Clinic. Canadian Journal of Optometry, 80(4), 11-15.