Utility of Geriatric Depression Scale 15 for Young and Middle-Aged Adults

Investigators assessed the clinical utility of the geriatric depression scale in adults aged 18 to 54, to measure clinical depression.

The GDS-15 short form depression rating scale commonly used to measure depression in older adults may also show good diagnostic sensitivity and specificity for young and middle-aged adults, according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

The study examined 311 individuals who were enrolled in 3 separate mental health studies. Participants with no history of depression or psychiatric diagnosis were kept in the study as healthy controls. The goal was to rate the classification accuracy of GDS-15 in adults aged 18 to 54 (n=199) and aged 54 to 80 (n=112).

The GDS-15 relied on self-reporting in paper and pencil format, and the standard cutoff score, indicating significant symptoms of depression, was 5. Researchers used the standard clinical interview for the DSM-IV Disorder-Clinician Version or Diagnostic Interview for Genetic Studies to determine diagnoses.

Accuracy based on receiver operating characteristics analysis was strong in both younger and older adults. Area under the curve was 0.92 in younger adults and 0.94 in older adults. Sensitivity and specificity of the GDS-15 for identifying depression was 72% and 97% in younger adults, and 86% and 91% in older adults, respectively.

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Study results indicate that the GDS-15 shows good sensitivity and specificity for adults aged 18 and older possibly suffering from depression. Researchers concluded that “the results of this investigation benefit not only researchers but also clinicians and other healthcare providers, potentially aiding in efforts to identify those suffering from, or at-risk for, depression.”

This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, The National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, and The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation.


Guerin JM, Copersino ML, Schretlen DJ. Clinical utility of the 15-item geriatric depression scale (GDS-15) for use with young and middle-aged adults. J Affect Disord. 2018; 241:59-62.