Geriatric Depression Scale

Geriatric Depression Scale

The Geriatric Depression Scale is an assessment used in the detection of depression among the elderly people. It was originally developed as a 30-item test but has now undergone modifications to present newer versions of 15-item and 4-item tests (Kaplan & Dennis, p. 36). The scale is often used as part of the wider geriatric assessment and cannot solely be used to make diagnosis alone. The administration of the geriatric depression scale is done through thirty questions that gauge the level of depression among the elderly.  Each of these questions has a yes or no answer thus making it simpler than five point scales. Responses that point to the possibility of depression are in blocks and are quantified as points. The test is easy to administer as it does not require prior clinical knowledge on the part of the user.

The answers given by the respondents are collected and their cumulative score identified. Every question on the scale attracts one point with the total score being rated on a scoring grid. However, only the answers that are attributed to the incidence of depression are given the positive score. In fact, answers to these questions are written in block letters with the negative answers having small caps. The total score determines the interpretation of the tests. The interpretation is further dependent on the items in the test with more positive scores increasing the chances of depression diagnosis (Brink et al, p. 297). A score of below 9 points is considered to be normal with that of between ten and nineteen receiving a mild depression diagnosis. Respondents with scores higher than 20 are considered to be severely depressed and should be given medical attentions. The use of the scale cannot however be used to make a clinical diagnosis alone.

The use of the geriatric depression scale is primarily intended for diagnosis of depression among the elderly. Indeed, it has been found to have a specificity score of 89% and a sensitivity of 92% against diagnostic criteria. As such, the use of the scale is highly effective and can be used to point out a possibility of depression even before clinical diagnosis takes place. The significance of the test is largely beneficial to researchers and practitioners.  In addition, the simplicity in its use presents significant benefits to the users. Consequently, it can be used without external supervision and is effective in self assessments. The geriatric depression scale is significant in addressing the rising problem of depression by helping in early detection and treatment (Yesavage et al, 545). Lastly, the test uses subjective questions in ascertain depression making it even more significant in this respect.

Despite the effectiveness of the test, the geriatric depression scale has both benefits and disadvantages. One of the advantages is that it is easily administered and does not require clinical knowledge. Also, the test has adequate psychometric properties making it ideal for the testing of depression. The simple nature of the test makes it friendly to elderly persons thus widening the coverage of people tested fro depression. Lastly, it helps in pinpointing depression way before the clinical diagnosis thus preventing negative effects of the same.  The test has its fair share of disadvantages including its failure to conclusively make clinical diagnosis. Moreover the nature of the test as a self report makes it open to source bias. That notwithstanding, the geriatric depression scale is highly effective in testing depression.


Works cited

Brink, Terry L., J. A. Yesavage, and O. Lum. “Geriatric depression scale.” Evidence-Based Diagnosis: A Handbook of Clinical Prediction Rules (2013): 297.

Kaplan, Robert M, and Dennis P. Saccuzzo. Psychological Testing: Principles, Applications, & Issues. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.

Yesavage, J. A., T. L. Brink, and T. L. Rose. “Geriatric depression scale (GDS).” Handbook of psychiatric measures. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association (2000): 544-6.


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