This geriatric depression scale (GDS) test evaluates symptoms of depression in elderly patients based on a 15 question and a 4 question version. Discover more about the GDS screening tool and also some guidelines about depression in the elderly below the form.
How does this Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) test work?
This health tool uses the GDS-15 and GDS-4 models to evaluate depressive status in elderly patients based on the reported symptoms as answers to a series of 15 respectively 4 questions. The model screens for major depression and the shorter version is often used in the monitoring of depressive episodes and the changes in the severity.
One of the highlights refers to the fact that the prolonged usage of the shorter version often increases detection rates of depression in older individuals. This has also been validated in several studies.
The geriatric depression scale test is considered an ideal evaluation and monitoring tool that is easy to administer and does not require any specific training for the clinician.
The original version comprises of 30 questions but in time, the most relevant have been compiled in the 15 efficient version (see tab 1 above and also the GDS-15 pdf version) and even a short 4 question version (see tab 2 and the GDS-4 pdf version) with the most discriminating questions with validity percentages closer to the original and with similar high sensitivity and specificity, with around 92% sensitivity and 89% specificity against diagnostic criteria.
The test however, should not be performed as the sole diagnosis tool and should be accompanied by other means of mental status evaluation.
GDS - 15 questions version
1. Are you basically satisfied with your life?
2. Have you dropped many of your activities and interests?
3. Do you feel that your life is empty?
4. Do you often get bored?
5. Are you in good spirits most of the time?
6. Are you afraid that something bad is going to happen to you?
7. Do you feel happy most of the time?
8. Do you often feel helpless?
9. Do you prefer to stay at home, rather than going out and doing new things?
10. Do you feel you have more problems with memory than most?
11. Do you think it is wonderful to be alive now?
12. Do you feel pretty worthless the way you are now?
13. Do you feel full of energy?
14. Do you feel that your situation is hopeless?
15. Do you think that most people are better off than you are?
GDS - short form version with 4 questions
1. Are you basically satisfied with your life?
2. Do you feel that your life is empty?
3. Are you afraid that something bad is going to happen to you?
4. Do you feel happy most of the time?
Each of the questions in either version of the test carries a weight of 1 point per positive answer in screening for depressive status. The patient simply answers with yes or no and then the clinician or the calculator will count the score and provide the interpretation.
The 15 question version score interpretation is as follows:
■ Below 5 - This score is not indicative of a depressive status, however the patient should be monitored further for any more signs displayed and also for their evolution.
■ Between 5 and 10 - This score is indicative of a depressive status in a mild to moderate severity. The patient needs to be referred to further specialist consultation.
■ Above 10 - This score is indicative for the presence of a severe depressive status. The patient needs to be referred to further specialist consultation.
The 4 item version is slightly different, with 0 being considered not indicative of any depressive status, scores of 1 considered to raise suspicion in regard to the patient’s mental health status and scores above 2 indicative of an installed depressive state.
Depression in the elderly
Late life depression is a condition that affects many people aged 65 and above but often the patients do not receive the proper assistance and treatment they require because their symptoms are often put on other illnesses or as adverse reactions to medication they might be taking for other conditions.
It is important to note that depression symptoms in the elderly differ from those in younger people, often with a higher impact on life quality, increasing the risk or worsening cardiac disease conditions and also lasting longer.
There have been studies that arrived at the conclusion that a patient with several other illnesses and who develops depression, has a higher mortality to those illnesses than a patient not suffering from depression. Other studies offered an insight on the increased risk of heart attack.
Some of the risk factors include the female gender, people living alone who lack a supportive social network, traumatic life events or the recent loss of a loved one, comorbidities and even the use of certain medication for other conditions.
Depression symptoms do not differ largely by age group, however, some might be exacerbated by the presence of other illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes or cancer.
Some of them are feelings of worthlessness, sadness, irritability, fatigue, apathy, lack of concentration, insomnia, changes in appetite, self harm thoughts, physical symptoms induced by the mental status.
In terms of treatment, psychotherapy and counseling are often first resort but also electroconvulsive therapy or even combinations of several therapies. In terms of medication, substance abuse needs to be monitored carefully as well as the choice of drugs used, in order for them not to create any adverse reactions with the medication the patient currently takes for other illnesses. Often clinicians will start prescribing a lower dosage and also try different combinations, this being one of the factors why often, antidepressant therapy is longer in the elderly than in the young.
1) Yesavage JA, Brink TL, Rose TL, Lum O, Huang V, Adey M, Leirer VO. (1982) Development and validation of a geriatric depression screening scale: a preliminary report. J Psychiatr Res; 17(1):37-49.
2) Lesher EL, Berryhill JS. (1994) Validation of the Geriatric Depression Scale--Short Form among inpatients. J Clin Psychol; 50(2):256-60.
3) van Marwijk HW, Wallace P, de Bock GH, Hermans J, Kaptein AA, Mulder JD. (1995) Evaluation of the feasibility, reliability and diagnostic value of shortened versions of the geriatric depression scale. Br J Gen Pract; 45(393):195-9.
4) Almeida OP, Almeida SA (1999) Short versions of the geriatric depression scale: a study of their validity for the diagnosis of a major depressive episode according to ICD-10 and DSM-IV. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry; 14(10):858-65.12 Sep, 2015