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Open Access Research article

Revisiting the dimensional structure of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS): empirical evidence for a general factor

Michael E Reichenheim1*, Claudia L Moraes12, Alessandra SD Oliveira3 and Gustavo Lobato4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, Institute of Social Medicine (IMS), Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ), Brazil

2 Family Health Master Program, Estácio de Sá University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

3 Bezerra de Araújo Faculty (FABA), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

4 Fernandes Figueira Institute, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2011, 11:93  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-93

Published: 20 June 2011



The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) has been proposed as a one-dimensional instrument and used as a single 10-item scale. This might be considered questionable since repeated psychometric studies have shown multi-dimensionality, which would entail using separate component subscales. This study reappraised the dimensional structure of the EPDS, with a focus on the extent of factor correlations and related factor-based discriminant validity as a foundation for deciding how to effectively scale the component items.


The sample comprised 811 randomly selected mothers of children up to 5 months attending primary health services of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Strict Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) and Exploratory Factor Analysis modeled within a CFA framework (E/CFA) were sequentially used to identify best fitting and parsimonious model(s), including a bifactor analysis to evaluate the existence of a general factor. Properties concerning the related 10-item raw-score scale were also investigated using non-parametric items response theory methods (scalability and monotonicity).


An initial CFA rejected the one-dimensional structure, while an E/CFA subscribed a three-dimensional solution. Yet, factors were highly correlated (0.66, 0.75 and 0.82). The ensuing CFA showed poor discriminant validity (some square-roots of average variance extracted below the factor correlations). A general bifactor CFA was then fit. Results suggested that, although still weakly encompassing three specific factors, the EPDS might be better described by a model encompassing a general factor (loadings ranging from 0.51 to 0.81). The related 10-item raw score showed adequate scalability (Loevinger's H coefficient = 0.4208), monotonicity e partial double monotonicity (nonintersections of Item Step Response Functions).


Although the EPDS indicated the presence of specific factors, they do not qualify as independent dimensions if used separately and should therefore not be used empirically as sub-scales (raw scores). An all-encompassing scale seems better suited and continuing its use in clinical practice and applied research should be encouraged.