Clinical Neuroscience

Validation of the Hungarian PHQ-15. A latent variable approach

STAUDER Adrienne1, WITTHÖFT Michael2, KÖTELES Ferenc3

MAY 30, 2021

Clinical Neuroscience - 2021;74(05-06)


Journal Article

Somatic symptoms without a clear-cut organic or biomedical background, also called “medically unexplained” or “somatoform” symptoms, are frequent in primary and secondary health care. They are often accompanied by depression and/or anxiety, and cause functional impairment. The Patient Health Question­naire Somatic Symptom Scale (PHQ-15) was developed to measure somatic symptom distress based on the frequency and bothersomeness of non-specific somatic symptoms. The study aimed to (1) evaluate the Hungarian version of the PHQ-15 from a psychometric point of view; (2) replicate the bifactor structure and associations with negative affect described in the literature; and (3) provide the Hungarian clinical and scientific community with reference (normal) values split by sex and age groups. PHQ-15, depression (BDI-R), and subjective well-being (WHO-5) scores obtained from a large (n = 5020) and close to representative community sample (Hun­garostudy 2006) were subjected to correlation analysis and linear structural equation modeling. The PHQ-15 showed good internal consistency (Cronbach’s α = 0.810; McDonald’s ω = 0.819) and moderate to strong correlation with the BDI-R (rs = .49, p < 0.001) and WHO-5 (rs = -.48, p < 0.001). Fit of the bifactor structure was excellent; in independent analyses, the general factor was strongly associated with depression (β = 0.656±0.017, p < 0.001) and well-being (β = -0.575±0.015, p < 0.001), whereas the symptom specific factors were only weakly or not related to these constructs. The PHQ-15 score was higher in females and showed a weak positive association with age. The Hungarian PHQ-15 is a psychometrically sound scale which is positively associated with depression and ne­gatively related to subjective well-being. The bifactor structure indicates the existence and meaningfulness of a gene­ral factor representing the affective-motivational component of somatic symptom distress. The Hungarian version of the PHQ-15 is a brief and usable tool for the pre-screening of somatization disorder (DSM-IV) or somatic symptom disorder (DSM-5). The reported reference values can be used in the future for both clinical and research purposes.


  1. Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Semmelweis University, Hungary
  2. Department of Clinical Psychology, Psychotherapy, and Experimental Psychopathology, University of Mainz, Germany
  3. Institute of Health Promotion and Sport Sciences, Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary



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