Clinically significant changes in the 17-and 6-item hamilton rating scales for depression: A star*D report

Augustus John Rush, Charles South, Shailesh Jain, Raafae Agha, Mingxu Zhang, Shristi Shrestha, Zershana Khan, Mudasar Hassan, Madhukar H. Trivedi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: To develop clinically meaningful improvement thresholds in both the 17-item and the 6-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) total scores in depressed outpatients. Methods: The post-hoc analysis included all adult outpatients with non-psychotic major depressive disorder in the STAR*D trial who entered and exited the first treatment step (up to 14 weeks of citalopram) with a complete set of study measures at baseline and exit and at least one post-baseline measure. Within-patient change and linear regression anchor-based analyses were conducted to define meaningful and substantial changes in the HRSD17 and HRSD6 using three patient-reported outcomes [Work and Social Adjustment Scale (WSAS), Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction-Short Form (Q-LES-Q-SF); Mini-Q-LES-Q] obtained at baseline and exit from the first treatment step in STAR*D. Results: Linear regression analyses identified a meaningful change threshold for the HRSD17 as 3.9 [3.7–4.1] [lower, upper 95% CI] and a substantial change as 7.8 [7.4–8.3] with the WSAS. Analogous thresholds based on the Q-LES-Q-SF were 5.8 [5.5–6.1] and 11.6 [11.0–12.2], respectively, and 4.9 [4.7–5.2] and 9.9 [9.3–10.4] for the Mini-QLES-Q, respectively. For the HRSD6, linear regression analyses with the WSAS identified a meaningful change as 2.2 [2.1–2.4], while a substantial change was 4.5 [4.2–4.7]. Analogous figures based on the Q-LES-Q-SF were 3.2 [3.0–3.4] and 6.4 [6.1–6.8]. Similarly, based on the Mini-QLESQ, results were 2.8 [2.6–2.9] and 5.6 [5.3–5.9]. For both the HRSD17 and the HRSD6, within-patient analyses produced less precise estimates of the same change thresholds with substantial overlap between groups. Based on the WSAS, a clinically meaningful change in the HRSD17 total score was 9.6 (SD = 6.5), while a substantial change was 15.0 (SD = 6.7). Analogous change thresholds based on the Q-LESQ-SF were 12.9 (SD = 6.2) and 16.8 (SD = 6.4), respectively. For the Mini-Q-LESQ, thresholds were 10.9 (SD = 6.5) and 16.1 (SD = 6.2). Conclusion: A 4–6 point change in the HRSD17 is clinically meaningful; a 7–12 point change is clinically substantial. For the HRSD6, analogous estimates were 2–3 and 4–7 point changes, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2333-2345
Number of pages13
JournalNeuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
StatePublished - 2021


  • Depression ratings
  • Meaningful change
  • Patient-reported outcomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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