Do Centenarians Have Higher Levels of Depression? Findings from the Georgia Centenarian Study
Abstract BACKGROUND—Depressive symptoms are often reported to be higher in very old populations when compared to younger age groups. However, it is unclear whether the differences are due to age differences in dysphoria or in other components of depression. OBJECTIVES—The purpose of this study was to examine age differences for specific items and subscales of the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). DESIGN—The current study compared specific items, subscales, and the total score from the GDS among three age groups. SETTING—Community-dwelling older adults were tested. PARTICIPANTS—One hundred and thirty-nine centenarians were compared to 93 octogenarians and 91 sexagenarians. MEASUREMENTS—The GDS (Brink et al., 1982) was used in this study. RESULTS—Results indicated age-group differences in the overall depression score and in the withdrawal-apathy-vigor (WAV), mental impairment, and hopelessness subscale scores, as well as on the item level with significant age group differences on 12 of the 30 items. Centenarians rated higher on all subscales, but there was no difference in dysphoria. CONCLUSION—It is important to distinguish different dimensions of depression when assessing very old populations because some of the questions on the GDS are associated with fatigue, mild cognitive decline, and decline in physical functioning which increase with aging. Future research should revisit the concept of depression in very late life.
This manuscript is published as Scheetz, Laura T., Peter Martin, and Leonard W. Poon. "Do centenarians have higher levels of depression? Findings from the Georgia Centenarian Study." Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 60, no. 2 (2012): 238-242. 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2011.03828.x. Posted with permission.