PMID: 7932277Mar 1, 1994Paper

Diagnosing major depression in the elderly: evidence for response bias in standardized diagnostic interviews?

Journal of Psychiatric Research
B Knäuper, H U Wittchen


Recent epidemiological and family genetic studies in different countries using standardized diagnostic interviews for mental disorders have rather consistently demonstrated considerably lower current (e.g. ECA Study: 0.9%) and lifetime (1.4%) prevalence estimates of Major Depression in the elderly (older than 65 years of age) as compared to younger age groups (e.g. 30-44 years: 1 year, 3.9%; lifetime, 7.5%). Some investigators have questioned the validity of these data and suggested alternative interpretations. One possibility is that the complex standardized symptoms and clinical probe questions, and the required judgmental process inherent in diagnostic interviews exceed the cognitive capacity of older adults. This may result in systematic response bias. This paper examines the degree to which the lower prevalence estimates of depression in the elderly are biased due to specific characteristics of the assessment strategy. Analyses of epidemiologic data from the Munich Follow-up Study (MFS), based on the Diagnostic Interview Schedule, demonstrate that (1) older respondents report lifetime depressive symptoms with the same frequency as younger respondents. The additional probe questions designed to identify the degree to which ...Continue Reading


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