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Am J Epidemiol. 1986 Sep;124(3):372-88.

Depressive symptoms in relation to physical health and functioning in the elderly.


The associations between depressive symptoms and functional disability and chronic conditions are examined in an elderly cohort of 2,806 noninstitutionalized men and women living in New Haven, Connecticut who were interviewed in 1982 as a part of the Yale Health and Aging Project. The aim is to explore several potential sources of invalidity in using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression scale (CES-D) to measure depressive symptoms in elderly populations. In particular, the authors are concerned with the possibility that prevalent physical illnesses and disabilities may cause the older person to report many somatic complaints, a major component of most measures of depressive symptomatology, and thereby inflate his or her CES-D score. Mean CES-D scores are 4.86 for those without any disabilities and range to 13.51 for those with major functional disabilities. However, physical disability is significantly associated with virtually every item on the CES-D scale not just those somatically-oriented items. The addition of functional disability to a multivariate model including age subfactor analysis of responses from this elderly sample produces results almost identical to those reported by earlier investigators who studied younger and middle-aged adults. The authors conclude that physical disabilities among the elderly do not appear to be a major threat to the validity of the CES-D scale and that the strong associations between physical and mental health should be rigorously investigated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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