Geriatric Depression Scale: What Is It and How Is It Used?

Take the Geriatric Depression Scale & See Your Results

Geriatric Depression Scale: What Is It and How Is It Used?

By Depression Connect StaffA Published at October 4, 2011 Views 9,357 Comments 5

Depression is widespread among older adults, and Americans age 65 and older account for a disproportionate number of suicide deaths. Yet, geriatric depression often goes undiagnosed because it’s ignored or assumed to be just a “normal part of aging.”

The Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) is a self-assessment report to help the elderly identify whether or not they are suffering from depression. Developed in 1982 by J. A. Yesavitch and colleagues, the scale has been found highly accurate in clinical practice and research. 

It’s also incredibly easy to use. The original scale consisted of 30 self-assessment questions, but in 1986, a shorter version of the GDS was developed which included just the 15 most relevant questions from the longer form. The questions generally ask how an individual feels about his or her life, and need only a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

One answer for each question carries a point; a person’s cumulative score is used to rate their depression. On the short-scale version, a score equal to or greater than five suggests depression.

The Stanford University website on geriatric depression also offers free versions of the scale in several different languages. 

It’s important to remember the GDS can’t replace clinical diagnosis by a mental health professional. But it is an easy, research-proven tool for screening adults who may be suffering from depression.

Geriatric Depression Scale (short form)

Instructions: Circle the answer that best describes how you felt over the past week.

  1. Are you basically satisfied with your life?                          Yes      No

    1. Have you dropped many of your activities and interests?     Yes      No

    2. Do you feel that your life is empty?     Yes      No

    3. Do you often get bored?     Yes      No

    4. Are you in good spirits most of the time?     Yes      No

    5. Are you afraid that something bad is going to happen to you?     Yes      No

    6. Do you feel happy most of the time?     Yes      No

    7. Do you often feel helpless?     Yes      No

    8. Do you prefer to stay at home, rather than going out and doing things?        Yes      No

    9. Do you feel that you have more problems with memory than most?     Yes      No

    10. Do you think it is wonderful to be alive now?     Yes      No

    11. Do you feel worthless the way you are now?     Yes      No

    12. Do you feel full of energy?     Yes      No

    13. Do you feel that your situation is hopeless?     Yes      No

    14. Do you think that most people are better off than you are?     Yes      No

Go to page 2 for answers and scoring directions.

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