The factor structure of depressive symptoms in patients with obesity enrolled in the RAINBOW clinical trial

Marzieh Majd, Joshua M. Smyth, Nan Lv, Lan Xiao, Mark B. Snowden, Elizabeth M. Venditti, Leanne M. Williams, Olusola A. Ajilore, Trisha Suppes, Jun Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Examining variability in the presenting symptoms of depression may be particularly important in characterizing depression in patients with comorbid conditions such as obesity. Identifying the underlying constructs of depression in such patients may produce phenotypic information to aid diagnosis and treatment decisions. Objective: To examine the latent factors of symptoms using the depression Symptom Checklist (SCL-20) and the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), separately, in patients with obesity and elevated depressive symptoms. Methods: Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was performed on baseline data from 409 patients with obesity and elevated depressive symptoms recruited in primary care. Bootstrap analysis was performed to estimate the precision and potential replicability of identified latent factors. Results: Participants (70% women, mean age of 51.0 ± 12.1 years) had moderate depression. EFA of the SCL-20 suggested two reliable factors: dysphoric mood (71% of the variance) and anhedonia (15% of the variance). EFA of the PHQ-9 yielded one factor: dysphoric mood (87% of the variance). Bootstrapped results supported the replicability of these results. The top most endorsed symptoms were feeling low energy, overeating and disturbed sleep. Limitations: The generalizability of these findings to severe depression may be limited. Conclusions: Patients with elevated depressive symptoms and obesity present with heterogeneous symptoms. The SCL-20 seems more sensitive than the PHQ-9 for differentiating symptom profiles in this population. Some possible reasons include: 1) differences in number of scale items, and 2) differences in the aspects of depression they tap into; the SCL-20 measures the severity of symptoms, whereas the PHQ-9 measures the frequency of symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-375
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Feb 15 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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