Normative values for the distress thermometer (DT) and the emotion thermometers (ET), derived from a German general population sample



The distress thermometer (DT) and the emotion thermometers (ET) are short screening instruments for use in oncological practice. The aim of this study was to provide normative values and to analyze the correlational structure of the ET.


A representative sample of the adult German general population (N = 2437) completed the ET, the PHQ-4, the FACIT-fatigue scale, and the demoralization scale.


The percentages of people above the cutoff (≥ 4) and the mean scores of the five ET scales were as follows: distress: 39.0%, M = 3.15 ± 2.62, anxiety: 12.3%, M = 1.36 ± 1.93, depression: 16.1%, M = 1.65 ± 2.11, anger: 24.5%, M = 2.33 ± 2.16, and need for help: 10.7%, M = 1.18 ± 1.90. Women reported significantly higher levels of burden than men, with effect sizes between 0.07 (anger) and 0.36 (anxiety). All ET dimensions were interrelated (r between 0.44 and 0.69) and significantly correlated with the other scales (r between 0.36 and 0.68).


The normative scores can help qualify assessments of groups of patients. The new four dimensions of the ET provide relevant additional information that is not already covered by the DT.

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Correspondence to Andreas Hinz.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the University of Leipzig. All procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all participants.

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Hinz, A., Mitchell, A.J., Dégi, C.L. et al. Normative values for the distress thermometer (DT) and the emotion thermometers (ET), derived from a German general population sample. Qual Life Res 28, 277–282 (2019).

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  • Distress
  • Screening
  • General population
  • Normative study