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Mood and anxiety disorders are highly prevalent in primary health care. In this study we assessed performance of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) for screening of depression and anxiety disorders in a population of primary care patients. A total of 503 primary care patients consecutively admitted to the primary care medical center in Kaunas, Lithuania, completed the study. We found that the HADS subscale of depression (HADS-D) at a cutoff score of 6 or more showed the best performance screening for a major depressive episode diagnosed by means of the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI), with a sensitivity of 80%, specificity of 69%, positive predictive value of 80%, negative predictive value of 92%, and area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve of 0.75. Performance of the HADS-D against MINI diagnosis of dysthymia was weak. The HADS subscale of anxiety (HADS-A) at a cutoff score of 9 or more showed the best performance screening for MINI diagnosis of overall anxiety disorders, with a sensitivity of 77%, specificity of 75%, positive predictive value of 53%, negative predictive value of 90%, and area under the ROC curve of 0.76. These results suggest that in primary care patients HADS is an adequate screening instrument for the MINI diagnoses of major depressive episode, but not for dysthymia at a cutoff score of 6, and for anxiety disorders at a cutoff score of 9.

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