Ethnic differences in the reliability and validity of a panic disorder screen

Michael R. Johnson, Abraham G. Hartzema, Terry L. Mills, Jessica M. De Leon, Mark Yang, Christopher Frueh, Alberto Santos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose. The purpose of this study was to compare the reliability and validity of the Brief Panic Disorder Screen (BPDS) in samples of African American and Caucasian American primary care patients. Methods. The BPDS was administered to 295 patients scheduled to visit a primary care clinic for medical reasons. The presence or absence of a panic disorder diagnosis was established during a clinical interview with a psychiatrist. Measures of reliability (internal consistency) and validity (criterion validity) were compared between the two ethnic subgroups. Findings. The BPDS demonstrated greater reliability and validity for Caucasians than African Americans. This effect was maintained even after controlling for group differences in key demographic variables. Differences between ethnic groups were apparent in both those with and those without panic disorder (PD). BPDS responses of African Americans with PD demonstrated very low internal consistency whereas a high rate of false positive PD diagnoses was related to higher than expected BPDS scores among African Americans without PD, particularly on the level of fear felt when experiencing shortness of breath or heart palpitations. Discussion. These findings support the notion that cultural differences in the language and meaning associated with anxiety disorders contribute to the difficulty of accurately diagnosing PD in primary care populations. Additional research is needed to provide a better understanding of the cultural aspects of the anxiety experience. Such research would facilitate the development of better screening tools for panic and other anxiety disorders for ethnic minority primary care populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-296
Number of pages14
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • African Americans
  • Panic Disorder
  • Primary Care
  • Screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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