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J Elder Abuse Negl. 2006;18(4):25-34.

What is the association between self-neglect, depressive symptoms and untreated medical conditions?

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  • 1CREST, University of Texas Medical School--Houston, Harris County Hospital District, USA.



There have been no studies describing the occurrence of untreated medical condition(s) in elders with depression who self-neglect. This study compares the prevalence of depression as indicated by an abnormal score ( > or = 5) on the Geriatric Depression Scale-Short Form (GDS-SF) between self-neglecters and matched non self-neglecting community-dwelling elders. It also describes the relationship between untreated medical condition(s) associated with self-neglect and abnormal scores on the GDS-SF.


The two samples consisted of 50 self-neglect cases validated by Adult Protective Services and 50 matched non-self-neglecters recruited from a hospital geriatric unit. The cases and controls were matched on age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status when possible. All were assessed in their home. Each participant received a comprehensive geriatric assessment, which included the Geriatric Depression Scale-Short Form, the Mini-Mental State Exam, the Self-Rated Health and Mortality question, and the Physical Performance Test. A laboratory blood analysis was also conducted. Untreated medical condition(s) was determined during the assessment by a geriatric nurse practitioner.


There was a statistically significant difference in the distribution of abnormal GDS-SF scores between the self-neglect (n = 25, 51%) versus the control group (n = 14, 28%; X2 = 5.49, df = 1, p = .019). Self-neglecters with scores indicative of depression were also significantly more likely (56% vs. 21%) to have untreated medical condition(s) compared to self-neglecters scoring normal on the GDS-SF (OR = 4.84, 95% CI = 1.37-17.09).


Clinicians should anticipate untreated medical condition(s) in elderly patients with depressive symptomatology who self-neglect.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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