Validation of the WHO-5 as a first-step screening instrument for depression in adults with diabetes: Results from Diabetes MILES – Australia

Jennifer A. Halliday, Christel Hendrieckx, Lucy Busija, Jessica L. Browne, Giesje Nefs, François Pouwer, Jane Speight

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50 Citations (Scopus)


Aims Screening for depression is recommended internationally. The World Health Organization's 5-item Well-being Index (WHO-5) is used clinically to screen for depression but its empirical suitability for this purpose is not well documented. We investigated the psychometric properties of the WHO-5 and its suitability for identifying likely depression in Australian adults with diabetes. Methods The Diabetes MILES – Australia study dataset provided a sample of N = 3249 who completed the WHO-5 (positively-worded 5-item measure of emotional well-being) and the PHQ-9 (9-item measure of depressive symptoms). Analyses were conducted for the full sample, and separately by diabetes type and treatment (type 1, non-insulin-treated type 2, and insulin-treated type 2 diabetes). Construct (convergent and factorial) validity and reliability of the WHO-5 were examined. ROC analyses were used to examine the sensitivity and specificity of the WHO-5 as a depression screening instrument, comparing two commonly used WHO-5 cut-off values (≤7 and <13) with the PHQ-9. Results For the whole sample, the WHO-5 demonstrated satisfactory internal consistency reliability (α = 0.90) and convergent validity with the PHQ-9 (r = −0.73, p < 0.001). Confirmatory factor analysis partially supported factorial validity: Χ2(5) = 834.94, p < 0.001; RMSEA = 0.23, 90% CI 0.21–0.24; CFI = 0.98, TLI = 0.96; factor loadings = 0.78–0.92. The AUC was 0.87 (95% CI: 0.86–0.89, p < 0.001). The sensitivity/specificity of the WHO-5 for detecting likely depression was 0.44/0.96 for the ≤7 cut-off, and 0.79/0.79 for the <13 cut-off, with similar findings by diabetes type and treatment. Conclusions These findings support use of a WHO-5 cut-point of <13 to identify likely depression in Australian adults with diabetes, regardless of type/treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
JournalDiabetes Research and Clinical Practice
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Factor analysis, statistical
  • Psychometrics
  • ROC curve
  • Surveys and questionnaires

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