Somatic complaints in older adults: aging process or symptoms of depression
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This study examined the efficacy of somatic symptoms on a new measure of depression designed specifically for older adults. Resent research has shown somatic symptoms to be accurate predictors of depression in older adults, yet they have been excluded from measures assessing depression in older adults. Somatic symptoms have been omitted because of the problem of distinguishing specific symptoms related to depression in older adults, than symptoms that reflect physical decline due to aging or illness. The purpose of this present study was to test the reliability and validity of a new depression measure that does not exclude somatic symptoms. Two studies were conducted, a preliminary study which examined the reliability of the new measure. Based on those results, the scale was modified for the primary study, which re-assessed the scale reliability and examined scale validity. Participants in the primary study were older adults living in nursing homes and in the community. They were given the new scale of depression along with two commonly used measures of depression, the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) and the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II). Somatic items were reliable as indicated by high item-scale correlations, and the new scale had concurrent validity as indicated by significant correlations with the BDI-II and GDS. The results refute the assumption that somatic symptoms of depression are poor indicators of depression in the elderly, and suggest caution when omitting somatic symptoms of depression from measures designed specifically for older adults. The controversy of excluding somatic symptoms when assessing depression in older adults should be resolved by distinguishing somatic symptoms of depression from symptoms due to declining health or aging.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 24-25).
Gentry, Ruth Anne (2001). Somatic complaints in older adults: aging process or symptoms of depression. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from