Author: Felix Fischer, Dario Zocholl, Geraldine Rauch, Brooke Levis, Andrea Benedetti, Brett Thombs, Matthias Rose, Polychronis Kostoulas 




Cut-offs on self-report depression screening tools are designed to identify many more people than those who meet criteria for major depressive disorder. In a recent analysis of the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS), the percentage of participants with Patient Health Questionnaire-8 (PHQ-8) scores ≥10 was reported as major depression prevalence.


We used a Bayesian framework to re-analyse EHIS PHQ-8 data, accounting for the imperfect diagnostic accuracy of the PHQ-8.


The EHIS is a cross-sectional, population-based survey in 27 countries across Europe with 258 888 participants from the general population. We incorporated evidence from a comprehensive individual participant data meta-analysis on the accuracy of the PHQ-8 cut-off of ≥10. We evaluated the joint posterior distribution to estimate the major depression prevalence, prevalence differences between countries and compared with previous EHIS results.


Overall, major depression prevalence was 2.1% (95% credible interval (CrI) 1.0% to 3.8%). Mean posterior prevalence estimates ranged from 0.6% (0.0% to 1.9%) in the Czech Republic to 4.2% (0.2% to 11.3%) in Iceland. Accounting for the imperfect diagnostic accuracy resulted in insufficient power to establish prevalence differences. 76.4% (38.0% to 96.0%) of observed positive tests were estimated to be false positives. Prevalence was lower than the 6.4% (95% CI 6.2% to 6.5%) estimated previously.


Prevalence estimation needs to account for imperfect diagnostic accuracy.

Clinical implications 

Major depression prevalence in European countries is likely lower than previously reported on the basis of the EHIS survey.