Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS)

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This is suitable as a screening test for depressive symptoms in the elderly; ideal for evaluating the clinical severity of depression, and therefore for monitoring treatment. It is easy to administer, needs no prior psychiatric knowledge and has been well validated in many environments.[1][2]

The original GDS was a 30 item questionnaire - time consuming and challenging for some patients (and staff). Later versions retain only the most discriminating questions; their validity approaches that of the original form.[3]

Depression assessments such as the 4 item Geriatric Depression Scale are easy and quick to perform with a high sensitivity and specificity. Patients who screen positive for depression should be considered for antidepressants and be reassessed cognitively when their depression has lifted. Care must be taken as dementia and depression often co-exist.

4 Item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-4)
Are you basically satisfied with your life?
Do you feel that your life is empty?
Are you afraid that something bad is going to happen to you?
Do you feel happy most of the time?
4 Item GDS score /4
(Score 1 for answers in block capitals: 2-4=Depressed, 1=uncertain, 0=Not depressed)
15 Item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-15)
Are you basically satisfied with your life?
Have you dropped many of your activities and interests?
Do you feel that your life is empty?
Do you often get bored?
Are you in good spirits most of the time?
Are you afraid that something bad is going to happen to you?
Do you feel happy most of the time?
Do you often feel helpless?
Do you prefer to stay at home, rather than go out and do new things?
Do you feel you have more problems with memory than most?
Do you think it is wonderful to be alive?
Do you feel pretty worthless the way you are now?
Do you feel full of energy?
Do you feel that your situation is hopeless?
Do you think that most people are better off than you are?
15 Item GDS score
(Score 1 for answers in block capitals: 0-4 normal, 5-9 Mild depression, 10-15 More severe depression)

Dr Yesavage has confirmed that the original scale (from which the calculator has been derived) is in the public domain due to it being partly the result of US Federal support.

The fifteen item (GDS-15) and 4 item (GDS-4) versions of the geriatric depression scale are good methods of screening for major depression (as is the 10 item version). The shorter of these (GDS-4) is of limited clinical value in monitoring the severity of the depressive episode (may be better used to exclude depression).[4] The systematic use of short GDS versions in Primary Care may increase detection rates of depression among the elderly.[5]

Further reading & references

  1. Brink TL, Yesavage JA, Lum O, Heersema P, Adey MB, Rose TL: Screening tests for geriatric depression. Clinical Gerontologist 1: 37-44, 1982.
  2. Yesavage JA, Brink TL, Rose TL, Lum O, Huang V, Adey MB, Leirer VO: Development and validation of a geriatric depression screening scale: A preliminary report. Journal of Psychiatric Research 17: 37-49, 1983.
  3. Sheikh JI, Yesavage JA: Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS): Recent evidence and development of a shorter version. Clinical Gerontology : A Guide to Assessment and Intervention 165-173, NY: The Haworth Press, 1986.
  4. van Marwijk HW, Wallace P, de Bock GH, et al; Evaluation of the feasibility, reliability and diagnostic value of shortened versions of the geriatric depression scale. Br J Gen Pract. 1995 Apr;45(393):195-9.
  5. Almeida OP, Almeida SA; 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. 1999 Oct;14(10):858-65.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Dr Huw Thomas
Current Version:
Document ID:
2190 (v25)
Last Checked:
26/10/2010
Next Review:
25/10/2015