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Comparative psychometric analyses of the SCL-90-R and its short versions in patients with affective disorders

Ulrich Prinz1, Detlev O Nutzinger2, Holger Schulz3, Franz Petermann4, Christoph Braukhaus2 and Sylke Andreas35*

Author Affiliations

1 Center of Psychiatric Care Rickling, Rickling, D - 24635, Germany

2 Psychosomatic Clinic, Bad Bramstedt, Bad Bramstedt, D-24576, Germany

3 Department of Medical Psychology, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, D-20246 Hamburg, Germany

4 Center for Clinical Psychology and Rehabilitation, University of Bremen, Bremen, D-28359, Germany

5 Institute of Psychology, University of Klagenfurt, A-9020 Klagenfurt, Austria

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BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:104  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-104

Published: 28 March 2013



Despite the widespread application of Symptom Checklist 90-R (SCL-90-R), its psychometric weaknesses have repeatedly been noted. This study aimed to comparatively assess the psychometric properties of the SCL-90-R scales and the scales of its short versions Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), Symptom Checklist-27 (SCL-27), Brief Symptom Inventory-18 (BSI-18), Symptom Checklist-14 (SCL-14), and Symptom Checklist short version-9 (SCL-K-9) in patients with affective disorders.


The data of 2,727 patients within the main treatment group of affective disorders were assessed according to the DSM-IV. Patients completed the SCL-90-R and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).


There were no significant differences regarding the internal consistency of the SCL-90-R scales and the scales of the short versions. The dimensional structure was only supported for the short versions BSI-18, SCL-14 and SCL-K-9. The assessment of convergent validity revealed high correlations. With regard to the discriminant validity, there were medium correlations. With regard to the sensitivity of change, no significant differences between the scales were found.


In summary, the scales of the short versions show mostly satisfactory psychometric properties in comparison to the scales of the SCL-90-R. The results support the application of the short versions as screening instruments, especially the BSI-18, and more economic variants of the SCL-90-R covering a wide range of psychopathological symptoms.

SCL-90-R; Short versions; Psychometric; Affective disorder; Symptom severity