The Geriatric Depression Scale, Short Form (GDS-15) exhibits good diagnostic sensitivity and specificity in adults aged 18 and older, according to research results published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. While the GDS-15 is widely used to assess elderly adults, it has also been used to assess depression in younger adults and may be a useful assessment tool across the adult lifespan.

Researchers administered the GDS-15 to 199 adults aged 18 to 54 and 112 adults age 55 to 80 and performed clinical diagnostic interviews to determine the presence of depression. Evaluating classification accuracy using receiver operating characteristic analysis, researchers found no difference in classification accuracy between age cohorts.

The sensitivity and specificity for identifying depression in younger adults were 72% and 97%, respectively, and 86% and 91%, respectively, in older adults. The chance-corrected agreement between the GDS-15 and the criterion was 71% in younger and 74% in older adults, showing good criterion-related validity across the age span.

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The GDS-15 uses short sentences and a yes/no format, which is easier for patients who are struggling with depression, fatigue, or cognitive impairment to tolerate. Validating the GDS-15 for use in younger adults would not only allow clinicians and researchers to use 1 screening measure across the adult lifespan, but may also aid in identifying patients with or at risk for depression. The researchers noted that their findings “could support incorporation of a mood scale such as the GDS-15 into routine health screenings,” and advocated future studies adopting a multi-trait, multi-method approach to validating the GDS-15 for use in young adults.

Study limitations include the fact that the analyses were based on a convenience sample from 3 community mental health studies, there may have been minor procedural inconsistencies, and the group sizes were uneven.

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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 Dis. 2018;241:59-62.