Center for Epidemiologic Studies – Depression Scale (CES-D)

Author of Tool: 

Lenore Radloff

Key references: 

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.

Primary use / Purpose: 

The CES-D scale is a brief self-report scale designed to measure self-reported symptoms associated with depression experienced in the past week. The items of the scale are symptoms associated with depression which have been used in previously validated longer scales.


The Center for Epidemiologic Studies – Depression (CES-D) scale includes twenty items comprising six scales reflecting major facets of depression: depressed mood, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, psychomotor retardation, loss of appetite, and sleep disturbance.


The CES-D has been shown to be a reliable measure for assessing the number, types, and duration of depressive symptoms across racial, gender, and age categories (Knight, Williams, McGee & Olaman, 1997; Radloff, 1977; Roberts, Vernon, & Rhoades, 1989). High internal consistency has been reported with Cronbach’s alpha coefficients ranging from .85 to .90 across studies (Radloff, 1977).
Concurrent validity by clinical and self-report criteria, as well as substantial evidence of construct validity have been demonstrated (Radloff, 1977). However, there is evidence that the CES-D, while a useful measure of the level of depressive symptoms, may not be a good tool for screening for clinical depression or major depression (Roberts, Vernon, & Rhoades, 1989).



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