Differential criterion functioning of alcohol use symptomatology in major depressive disorder?

M. T. Lynskey, A. Agrawal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background. Major depressive disorder (MDD) and alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are among the most prevalent psychiatric disorders and are frequently co-morbid. However, some component of this co-morbidity may be artifactual and arise from the influence of current mental state on self-reports of AUD. Method. This study examined whether past-year MDD is associated with differential criterion functioning (DCF) in reports of AUD symptomatology in male and female participants in the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NEASRC). Results. Reports of past-year AUD symptomatology were adequately summarized by a single-factor model in which each of the 11 abuse and dependence criteria had high factor loadings (0.71-0.93) and did not vary between men and women after allowing for threshold differences. Co-morbid MDD was associated with higher AUD mean scores. There was some evidence for DCF with past-year MDD being associated with a lower endorsement of use in hazardous situations among men whereas women with MDD were more likely to endorse both social/interpersonal problems and emotional/physical problems. Conclusions. Several items assessing AUD display DCF in the presence of MDD. While these findings highlight the need to consider the possibility that mental state can influence reporting of psychiatric symptoms and potentially inflate estimates of co-morbidity, they suggest that only a negligible component of the co-morbidity between MDD and AUDs can be attributed to over-reporting of alcohol symptomatology conditional on current MDD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-449
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Alcohol use disorders
  • Co-morbidity
  • Differential criterion function
  • Major depressive disorder


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