Exploring optimum cut-off scores to screen for probable posttraumatic stress disorder within a sample of UK treatment-seeking veterans

Dominic Murphy, Jana Ross, Rachel Ashwick, Cherie Armour, Walter Busuttil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Previous research exploring the psychometric properties of the scores of measures of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suggests there is variation in their functioning depending on the target population. To date, there has been little study of these properties within UK veteran populations.

Objective: This study aimed to determine optimally efficient cut-off values for the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R) and the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) that can be used to assess for differential diagnosis of presumptive PTSD.

Methods: Data from a sample of 242 UK veterans assessed for mental health difficulties were analysed. The criterion-related validity of the PCL-5 and IES-R were evaluated against the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5). Kappa statistics were used to assess the level of agreement between the DSM-IV and DSM-5 classification systems.

Results: The optimal cut-off scores observed within this sample were 34 or above on the PCL-5 and 46 or above on the IES-R. The PCL-5 cut-off is similar to the previously reported values, but the IES-R cut-off identified in this study is higher than has previously been recommended. Overall, a moderate level of agreement was found between participants screened positive using the DSM-IV and DSM-5 classification systems of PTSD.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the PCL-5 and IES-R can be used as brief measures within veteran populations presenting at secondary care to assess for PTSD. The use of a higher cut-off for the IES-R may be helpful for differentiating between veterans who present with PTSD and those who may have some sy`mptoms of PTSD but are sub-threshold for meeting a diagnosis. Further, the use of more accurate optimal cut-offs may aid clinicians to better monitor changes in PTSD symptoms during and after treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1398001
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Issue number1
Early online date13 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • veterans
  • military
  • PTSD
  • CAPS
  • PCL-5
  • IES-R
  • psychometrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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