NLSY79 Appendix 25: Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale

National Longitudinal Survey of Youth - 1979 Cohort

NLSY79 Appendix 25: Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale

Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale

The CES-D is a self-report scale that measures the current prevalence of depression symptoms. Respondents rate a series of statements regarding how they felt during the week prior to the interview. 

This appendix is divided into four parts:

  1. CES-D 20-item scale: NLSY79 1992 survey year (Scale scores for both the 20-item and the 7-item CES-D available for 1992)
  2. CES-D 7-item scale: NLSY79 1994 survey year
  3. CES-D 7-item scale: 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 NLSY79 (40+ and 50+ Health Modules)
  4. CES-D IRT item parameter estimates, scores and standard errors with custom weighted Z-scores and percentile ranks
1. CES-D 20-item scale: 1992 NLSY79 (Scale scores for both the 20-item and the 7-item CES-D available for 1992)

Items and scoring

A set of 20 questions was asked in the 1992 NLSY79 about how often respondents felt the following way during the past week.

Table 1: CES-D 20-item Scale Questions, 1992

Item Question Reference Number
1 I was bothered by things that usually don't bother me. R3894900
2 I did not feel like eating; my appetite was poor. R3895000
3 I felt that I couldn't shake off the blues even with help from my family and friends. R3895100
4 I felt that I was just as good as other people. R3895200
5 I had trouble keeping my mind on what I was doing. R3895300
6 I felt depressed. R3895400
7 I felt that everything I did was an effort. R3895500 
8 I felt hopeful about the future. R3895600
9 I thought my life had been a failure. R3895700
10 I felt fearful. R3895800
11 My sleep was restless. R3895900
12 I was happy. R3896000
13 I talked less than usual. R3896100
14 I felt lonely. R3896200
15 People were unfriendly. R3896300
16 I enjoyed life. R3896400
17 I had crying spells. R3896500
18 I felt sad. R3896600
19 I felt that people dislike me. R3896700
20 I could not get "going." R3896800

Scoring for all 16 negative-symptom questions:

0 point :  Rarely or none of the time (< 1 day)
1 point :  Some or a little of the time (1-2 days)
2 points: Occasionally or a moderate amount of the time (3-4 days)
3 points: Most or all of the time (5-7 days).

Scoring for 4 positive-symptom questions (R3895200, R3895600, R3896000, R3896400) is reversed.

CES-D 20-item scale score: scores of the above 20 items were summed. Possible range of total scores is 0 to 60, with the higher scores indicating the presence of more depressive symptoms. If more than four items are missing, the scale score is coded as missing. A flag that indicates the number of missing items for CES-D 20-item scale is also created.

CESD 7-item scale score: scores of 7 items were summed (R3895000, R3895300, R3895400, R3895500, R3895900, R3896600, R3896800). Possible range for total scores is 0 to 21. If one item is missing, the scale score is coded as missing.

Reference Number (accessed via NLS Investigator)

R3896810 = 20-item scale score
R3896811 = flag for 20-item scale score
R3896820 = 7-item scale score

2. CES-D 7-item scale: 1994 NLSY79

Items and scoring

A set of 7 questions was asked in the 1994 NLSY79 about how often respondents felt the following way during the past week.

Table 2: The 1994 NLSY79 CESD questions

Item Question Reference Number
1 I did not feel like eating; my appetite was poor. R49783.00
2 I had trouble keeping my mind on what I was doing. R49784.00
3 I felt depressed. R49785.00
4 I felt that everything I did was an effort. R49786.00
5 My sleep was restless. R49787.00
6 I felt sad. R49788.00
7 I could not get "going". R49789.00

Scoring for 7 questions:

0 point: Rarely or none of the time (< 1 day)
1 point: Some or a little of the time (1-2 days)
2 points: Occasionally or a moderate amount of the time (3-4 days)
3 points: Most or all of the time (5-7 days).

Scores of 7 items were summed. Total score could range from 0 to 21 points. If one item is missing, the scale score is coded as missing.

Reference Number (accessed via NLS Investigator)

R4978910                                          

3. CES-D 7-item scale: 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 NLSY79 (40+ and 50+ Health Modules)

Items and Scoring

Starting with the 1998, survey, the CES-D scale was administered in the 40-and-over health module (where questions were asked only once as respondents reached age 40) and again in the 50-and-over health modure (asked once as respondents reached age 50). The 7-item CES-D scale, first introduced in the 1994 NLSY79, was asked again in the1998 and 2000 survey rounds. Two items were added to increase the number of items to nine beginning in 2002. The seven core CES-D questions asked in all these 5 rounds were used to create the CES-D scale for the 1998-2006 surveys.

Table 3: The NLSY79 CESD questions in 40+ and 50+ Health Modules

Item Question Reference Number
1 I did not feel like eating; my appetite was poor. H0000300
2 I had trouble keeping my mind on what I was doing. H0000500
3 I felt depressed. H0000600
4 I felt that everything I did was an effort. H0000700
5 My sleep was restless. H0000800
6 I felt sad. H0001000
7 I could not get "going". H0001100

Scoring for the 7 questions:

0 point: Rarely or none of the time (< 1 day)
1 point: Some or a little of the time (1-2 days)
2 points: Occasionally or a moderate amount of the time (3-4 days)
3 points: Most or all of the time (5-7 days)

Scores of 7 items were summed. Total score could range from 0 to 21 points. If one item is missing, the scale score is coded as missing.

Reference Number (accessed via NLS Investigator)

H0001101

4. CES-D IRT item parameter estimates, scores and standard errors with custom weighted z-scores and percentile ranks

Several of the NLS datasets, including the NLSY79 cohort, now include CES-D variables that represent item response theory (IRT) parameter estimates and IRT scores and their standard errors of measurement. Also available are created variables that provide a custom-weighted z-score and percentile rank. See Appendix 27: IRT Item Parameter Estimates, Scores and Standard Errors for a detailed description and discussion of the IRT scoring for the CES-D and other multi-cohort attitudinal variables.