Clinical Insight Into Latent Variables of Psychiatric Questionnaires for Mood Symptom Self-Assessment.
Tsanas A., Saunders K., Bilderbeck A., Palmius N., Goodwin G., De Vos M.
BACKGROUND: We recently described a new questionnaire to monitor mood called mood zoom (MZ). MZ comprises 6 items assessing mood symptoms on a 7-point Likert scale; we had previously used standard principal component analysis (PCA) to tentatively understand its properties, but the presence of multiple nonzero loadings obstructed the interpretation of its latent variables. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to rigorously investigate the internal properties and latent variables of MZ using an algorithmic approach which may lead to more interpretable results than PCA. Additionally, we explored three other widely used psychiatric questionnaires to investigate latent variable structure similarities with MZ: (1) Altman self-rating mania scale (ASRM), assessing mania; (2) quick inventory of depressive symptomatology (QIDS) self-report, assessing depression; and (3) generalized anxiety disorder (7-item) (GAD-7), assessing anxiety. METHODS: We elicited responses from 131 participants: 48 bipolar disorder (BD), 32 borderline personality disorder (BPD), and 51 healthy controls (HC), collected longitudinally (median [interquartile range, IQR]: 363  days). Participants were requested to complete ASRM, QIDS, and GAD-7 weekly (all 3 questionnaires were completed on the Web) and MZ daily (using a custom-based smartphone app). We applied sparse PCA (SPCA) to determine the latent variables for the four questionnaires, where a small subset of the original items contributes toward each latent variable. RESULTS: We found that MZ had great consistency across the three cohorts studied. Three main principal components were derived using SPCA, which can be tentatively interpreted as (1) anxiety and sadness, (2) positive affect, and (3) irritability. The MZ principal component comprising anxiety and sadness explains most of the variance in BD and BPD, whereas the positive affect of MZ explains most of the variance in HC. The latent variables in ASRM were identical for the patient groups but different for HC; nevertheless, the latent variables shared common items across both the patient group and HC. On the contrary, QIDS had overall very different principal components across groups; sleep was a key element in HC and BD but was absent in BPD. In GAD-7, nervousness was the principal component explaining most of the variance in BD and HC. CONCLUSIONS: This study has important implications for understanding self-reported mood. MZ has a consistent, intuitively interpretable latent variable structure and hence may be a good instrument for generic mood assessment. Irritability appears to be the key distinguishing latent variable between BD and BPD and might be useful for differential diagnosis. Anxiety and sadness are closely interlinked, a finding that might inform treatment effects to jointly address these covarying symptoms. Anxiety and nervousness appear to be amongst the cardinal latent variable symptoms in BD and merit close attention in clinical practice.