Psychological Medicine

Research Article

Computer diagnosis of depression and anxiety: the Stirling County Study

Jane M. Murphya1 c1, Raymond K. Neffa1 p1, Arthur M. Sobola1 p2, Joseph X. Rice Jra1 p3 and Donald C. Oliviera1 p4

a1 Harvard Program in Psychiatric Epidemiology, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA


A computer programme (DPAX) was constructed for a longitudinal study of psychiatric epidemiology in Stirling County (Canada). It identifies disorders involving the syndromes of depression and anxiety based on responses given in structured questionnaire interviews. The programme follows a diagnostic algorithm that uses criteria for: (1) essential features; (2) number, frequency, and pattern of associated symptoms; (3) impairment; and (4) duration. The programme reproduces case evaluations provided by psychiatrists, as conveyed by a sensitivity of 92% and a specificity of 98%.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Jane M. Murphy, Harvard Program in Psychiatric Epidemiology, 715 Warren Building, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA.

p1 Present address: Department of Community and Family Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA.

p2 Present address: Department of Behavioral Sciences, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

p3 Present address: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of Management Information Services, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

p4 Present address: Harvard Health Sciences Computing Facility, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.