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Somatic Complaints in Older Adults: Aging Process or Symptoms of Depression?
by Ruth A. Gentry - Texas A & M University
Somatic symptoms are accurate predictors of depression in older adults, yet they are excluded from diagnostic measures of depression for older adults. This exclusion is due to the problem of distinguishing specific symptoms related to depression rather than physical decline due to aging or illness. The purpose of the present study was to test the reliability and validity of the Older Adult Depression Scale (OADS), which includes somatic symptoms. Participants were older adults living in nursing homes and in the community who completed the OADS and 2 other measures of depression, the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II; Beck, Ward, Mendelson, Mock, & Erbaugh, 1961) and the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS; Yesavage et al., 1983). 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. Therefore, researchers should use caution if they omit somatic items from depression measures designed for older adults because somatic symptoms are valid indices of depression in older adults.