Comparative responsiveness of generic versus disorder-specific instruments for depression: An assessment in three longitudinal datasets

Edwin de Beurs*, Ellen Vissers, Robert Schoevers, Ingrid V. E. Carlier, Albert M. van Hemert, Ybe Meesters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Routine outcome monitoring (ROM) may enhance individual treatment and is also advocated as a means to compare the outcome of different treatment programs or providers. There is debate on the optimal instruments to be used for these separate tasks. 

Methods: Three sets with longitudinal data from ROM were analyzed with correlational analysis and repeated measures ANOVAs, allowing for a head-to-head comparison of measures regarding their sensitivity to detect change. The responsiveness of three disorder-specific instruments, the Beck Depression Inventory, the Inventory of Depressive Symptoms, and the Mood and Anxiety Symptoms Questionnaire, was compared to three generic instruments, the Symptom Checklist (SCL-90), the Outcome Questionnaire (OQ-45), and the Brief Symptom Inventory, respectively. 

Results: In two of the three datasets, disorder-specific measures were more responsive compared to the total score on generic instruments. Subscale scores for depression embedded within generic instruments are second best and almost match disorder-specific scales in responsiveness. No evidence of a desynchronous response on outcome measures was found. 

Limitations: The present study compares measures head-to-had, and responsiveness is not assessed against an external criterion, such as clinical recovery. 

Discussion: Disorder-specific measures yield the most precise assessment for individual treatment and are recommended for clinical use. Generic measures may allow for comparisons across diagnostic groups and their embedded subscales approach the responsiveness of disorder-specific measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-102
Number of pages10
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2019


  • assessment
  • depression
  • psychometrics
  • responsiveness
  • routine outcome monitoring
  • SQ-48

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