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Patient Health Questionnaire 15

Patient Health Questionnaire 15

What is PHQ-15

The Patient Health Questionnaire 15 (PHQ-15) is the somatic symptom scale from Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ). It was derived from the original PHQ studies and is increasingly used to assess somatic symptom severity and the potential presence of somatization and somatoform disorders. Recognizing signs of mental health disorders is not always easy. The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) is a diagnostic tool for mental health disorders used by health care professionals that is quick and easy for patients to complete. In the mid-1990s, Robert L. Spitzer, MD, Janet B.W. Williams, DSW, and Kurt Kroenke, MD, and colleagues at Columbia University developed the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD), a diagnostic tool containing modules on 12 different mental health disorders. They worked in collaboration with researchers at the Regenstrief Institute at Indiana University and with the support of an educational grant from Pfizer Inc.

PHQ-15 Printable PDF

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PHQ-15 Scoring and Interpretation

PsyPack can automatically score the PHQ-15 assessment and prepare corresponding tables and graphs.


Somatization, Somatoform disorders

What does PHQ-15 measure

The purpose of the evaluation is to:

  • assess somatic symptom counts,
  • assess somatic symptom severity, and
  • assess the potential presence of somatization and somatoform disorders.



Type of outcome tool


Assessment modes


Age and eligibility

18 years and above

Estimated time

Less than 5 minutes


Since the questionnaire relies on client self-report, all responses should be verified by the clinician, and a definitive diagnosis is made on clinical grounds taking into account how well the client understood the questionnaire, as well as other relevant information from the client.

One limitation of the PHQ-15 as a self-administered measure is that it cannot distinguish between medically explained and unexplained symptoms, a distinction that typically requires a directed interview and clinical judgment. The PHQ-15 is therefore best characterized as a measure of somatic symptom severity rather than a diagnostic instrument for somatoform disorders. Patients who have high screening scores on the PHQ-15 should be further questioned to determine which symptoms might be medically unexplained.

Sensitivity to change for monitoring treatment outcomes: There is preliminary evidence that the PHQ-15 may be responsive to changes as individuals with somatoform disorders or high somatization are treated.

After making a provisional diagnosis with the PHQ-15, there are additional clinical considerations that may affect decisions about management and treatment.

  • Have current symptoms been triggered by psychosocial stressor(s)?
  • What is the duration of the current disturbance and has the patient received any treatment for it? To what extent are the patient’s symptoms impairing his or her usual work and activities?
  • Is there a history of similar episodes, and were they treated?
  • Is there a family history of similar conditions?

Attribution and References

Developed by Drs. Robert L. Spitzer, Janet B.W. Williams, Kurt Kroenke and colleagues, with an educational grant from Pfizer Inc.