The Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS)

Dermatology Nursing. 2002;14(6) 


Why: Depression is common in late life, effecting nearly five million of the 31 million Americans aged 65 and older. Both major and minor depression are reported in 13% of community dwelling older adults, 24% of older medical outpatients and 43% of both acute care and nursing home dwelling older adults. Contrary to popular belief, depression is not a natural part of aging. Depression is often reversible with prompt and appropriate treatment. However, if left untreated, depression may result in the onset of physical, cognitive and social impairment as well as delayed recovery from medical illness and surgery, increased health care utilization and suicide.

Best Tool: While there are many instruments available to measure depression, the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), first created by Yesavage et al., has been tested and used extensively with the older population. It is a brief questionnaire in which participants are asked to respond to the 30 questions by answering yes or no in reference to how they felt on the day of administration. Scores of 0 - 9 are considered normal, 10 - 19 indicate mild depression and 20 - 30 indicate severe depression.

Target Population: The GDS may be used with healthy, medically ill and mild to moderately cognitively impaired older adults. It has been extensively used in community, acute and long-term care settings.

Validity/Reliability: The GDS was found to have a 92% sensitivity and a 89% specificity when evaluated against diagnostic criteria. The validity and reliability of the tool have been supported through both clinical practice and research.

Strengths and Limitations: The GDS is not a substitute for a diagnostic interview by mental health professionals. It is a useful screening tool in the clinical setting to facilitate assessment of depression in older adults especially when baseline measurements are compared to subsequent scores.

More on the Topic:

Koenig, H.G. Meador, K.G., Cohen, J.J. Blazer, D.G. (1988). Self-Rated Depression Scales and Screening for Major Depression in the Older Hospitalized Patient with Medical Illness. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 699-706.

Kurlowicz, L.H., & NICHE Faculty (1997). Nursing Stand or Practice Protocol: Depression in Elderly

Patients. Geriatric Nursing, 18, 192-199 NIH Consensus Development Panel. (1992). Diagnosis and Treatment of Depression in Late Life.

JAMA, 268, 1018-1024. Sheikh, R.L. & Yesavage, J.A. (1986). Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). Recent Evidence and Development of a Shorter Version. Clinical Gerontologist, 5, 165-173.

Yesavage, J.A., Brink, T.L., Rose, T.L., Lum, O. Huang, V., Adey, M., Leirer, V.O. (1983). Development and Validation of a Geriatric Depression Screening Scale: A Preliminary Report. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 17, 37-49.

Geriatric Depression Scale.

Dermatology Nursing is pleased to publish this regular feature, "Try This: Best Practices in Nursing Care to Older Adults," developed by the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing.

This article was reprinted with permission from "Try This: Best Practices in Nursing Care to Older Adults" series from the John A. Hartford Foundation Institute for Geriatric Nursing. Mathy Mezey, EdD, RN, FAAN, is Director of the Institute and Terry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN is Co-Director. Series Editor is Sheila Molony, MS, RN,C.