The theoretical and practical determination of clinical cut-offs for the British Sign Language versions of PHQ-9 and GAD-7.

Rachel Belk, Mark Pilling, Katherine Rogers, Karina Lovell, Alys Young

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The PHQ-9 and the GAD-7 assess depression and anxiety respectively. There are standardised, reliability-tested versions in BSL (British Sign Language) that are used with Deaf users of the IAPT service. The aim of this study is to determine their appropriate clinical cut-offs when used with Deaf people who sign and to examine the operating characteristics for PHQ-9 BSL and GAD-7 BSL with a clinical Deaf population.

Two datasets were compared: (i) dataset (n = 502) from a specialist IAPT service for Deaf people; and (ii) dataset (n = 85) from our existing study of Deaf people who self-reported having no mental health difficulties. Parameter estimates, with the precision of AUC value, sensitivity, specificity, positive predicted value (ppv) and negative predicted value (npv), were carried out to provide the details of the clinical cut-offs. Three statistical choices were included: Maximising (Youden: maximising sensitivity + specificity), Equalising (Sensitivity = Specificity) and Prioritising treatment (False Negative twice as bad as False Positive). Standard measures (as defined by IAPT) were applied to examine caseness, recovery, reliable change and reliable recovery for the first dataset.

The clinical cut-offs for PHQ-9 BSL and GAD-7 BSL are 8 and 6 respectively. This compares with the original English version cut-offs in the hearing population of 10 and 8 respectively. The three different statistical choices for calculating clinical cut-offs all showed a lower clinical cut-off for the Deaf population with respect to the PHQ-9 BSL and GAD-7 BSL with the exception of the Maximising criteria when used with the PHQ-9 BSL. Applying the new clinical cut-offs, the percentage of Deaf BSL IAPT service users showing reliable recovery is 54.0 % compared to 63.7 % using the cut-off scores used for English speaking hearing people. These compare favourably with national IAPT data for the general population.

The correct clinical cut-offs for the PHQ-9 BSL and GAD-7 BSL enable meaningful measures of clinical effectiveness and facilitate appropriate access to treatment when required.
Original languageEnglish
Article number372
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2016


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