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Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D): An Excellent Free Psychological Screening Instrument For Major Depression

CES-D_Stanford_editionThe Center for Epidemiologic Studies publishes an excellent free psychological screening instrument for major depression called the The Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D). The CES-D serves a similar purpose as the ever popular Beck Depression Inventory-II, but with greater emphasis on the affective components of depression. The cost of this instrument ($0) makes it an attractive option to costly copyrighted depression scales. The CES-D is available in the public domain so check the end of this review to download the Stanford edition of the CES-D.

CES General Information
The CES-D is a 20-item self-report adult instrument designed to measure common symptoms of depression that have occurred over the past week, such as poor appetite, hopelessness, pessimism, and fatigue (Radloff, 1977). The CES-D takes approximately 5 minutes to complete. Questions are drawn from other depression inventories, such as the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (Zung SDS), the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and the Raskin Scale. All questions are answered on a scale of 0-3, with 0 indicating no symptom presence and with 3 representing symptoms “most or all of the time.” CES-D scores range from 0 to 60 with higher scores indicating more severe depressive symptoms. A score of 16 or higher identifies subjects with clinically meaningful depression (Radloff, 1977).

CES-D Psychometrics
Research demonstrates that the CES-D is valid and reliable instrument that can be used in research, and possibly clinical practice, to screen for common symptoms of major depression. The CES is particularly popular among researchers. Internal consistency using coefficient alpha is estimated to be .85 for the general population (healthy) and .90 in patient samples (Radloff, 1977). Most estimates of test-retest reliability from 2 weeks to 12 months fall in the moderate range (.45-.70); however, Radloff (1977) points out that moderate test-retest estimates are consistent with the CES-D’s design, which emphasizes current affective symptoms that are expected to fluctuate between test administrations. Researchers have also investigated the reliability and validity of the CES-D with African American, Asian American, French, Greek, Hispanic, Japanese, and Yugoslavian populations (Naughton and Wiklund 1993).

The CES-D is a cost effective, reliable, and valid screening instrument used to quickly assess the behavioral, cognitive, and affective symptoms of depression. The CES-D can be used without permission and is free of charge.

Download the CES-D (Stanford Edition) CES-D Standford Version.

Naughton MJ, & Wiklund I (1993). A critical review of dimension-specific measures of health-related quality of life in cross-cultural research. Qual Life Res 2:397–432.

Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385-401.

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17 Responses to Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D): An Excellent Free Psychological Screening Instrument For Major Depression

  1. avatar
    Alma Bonifacio February 4, 2012 at 12:21 AM #

    Good Evening Dr. Fisher,

    My name is Alma Bonifacio and I am a California State University, Los Angeles Student. I am currently working on my thesis which is about male depression and I am also helping teachers in a research study they are planning to conduct that talks about depression too.

    I would like to know if we need your permission to use CES-D scale?

    • avatar
      Christopher Fisher, PhD February 4, 2012 at 6:11 PM #

      Hi Alma,

      Sorry for the slow reply. I am have been extremely busy with my private practice and have gotten behind in all things BMED Report. You do not need my permission to use the CES-D. This is a freely published scale that any can use without permission.

      Good luck with your research!

      Dr. Fisher

  2. avatar
    Alma February 7, 2012 at 12:41 AM #

    Thank you so much Dr. Fisher!

  3. avatar
    sanakaramat April 26, 2012 at 12:21 PM #

    i m the student of m.phil psychology , my research topic is ” depression and quality of life of disabled children”. i need your permission to use it. reply quickly plz.

  4. avatar
    sanakaramat April 26, 2012 at 12:26 PM #

    i tried to access the original author of ces-d, Radloff. but i cant. plz Dr Fisher help me in this regard. i ill b watng. thanx

    • avatar
      Christopher Fisher, PhD April 29, 2012 at 9:26 PM #

      Sanakaramat – the CES-D is in the public domain. You do not need anyone’s permission. Just provide references for the articles you reference in your paper. Good luck with your research!

      Dr. Fisher

      • avatar
        sanakaramat April 30, 2012 at 2:24 AM #

        okay.. thanks alot

  5. avatar
    Sailady June 17, 2012 at 10:39 AM #

    Hello sir.. I am a nursing student in Velez College Philippines, I would like to ask you if there are any disadvantages to this assessment tool towards Geriatric patients??

  6. avatar
    Monica Iaquinta September 15, 2013 at 6:23 PM #

    What is the literacy level of the CES-D scale? Thanks, Monica

    • avatar
      Christopher Fisher, PhD September 17, 2013 at 6:54 AM #

      I do not recall any research on the specific literacy level of the CES-D scale. The questions are fairly basic, and I haven’t run into any patients who were unable to answer them.

  7. avatar
    paty March 6, 2014 at 11:32 PM #

    Hi, Dr, Fisher, I´m studying a masters about clinical investigation, I want to do a studying about depression and diabetes, so I´m lóoking for this article: The CES-D Scale: A Self-Report Depression Scale for Research in the General Population
    Applied Psychological Measurement June 1977 1: 385-401, but can´t find it free, do you know a page where it can be free??

  8. avatar
    Dierksmeier May 13, 2014 at 7:20 AM #

    Dear Mr. Fisher,

    for my master thesis i need the CES-D in Italian, as im doing a cultural comparison between German and Italian people.
    Do you kow whether there exists an Italian translation or one you could send to me?

    Kind regards,
    Corinna Dierksmeier

    • avatar
      Christopher Fisher, PhD May 21, 2014 at 1:09 PM #

      Sorry for the slow reply.

      I am not aware of an Italian version of the CES-D. Sorry I could not be of more help.

  9. avatar
    Hira May 20, 2014 at 3:25 PM #

    Respected sir
    i need urdu version of Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)…can you provide me????

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