The Geriatric Depression Scale is the best screening tool for depression in older people in acute hospital settings


Depression often occurs in later life and people in poor physical condition tend to be more susceptible than others. Older people in hospital who get depressed have poorer outcomes, so it’s important that we know how to detect depression and manage it in the acute setting.

This systematic review conducted by researchers in Swansea set out to review all of the screening tools for detecting depression in older people in general hospitals. They conducted a decent search but only found 14 studies to include in their review.

They concluded that only one screening instrument has been researched in enough detail to be recommended for use in the acute hospital setting. That instrument is the Geriatric Depression Scale.

The reviewers also commented that the BASDEC tool (Brief Assessment Schedule Depression Cards) shows promise.

It’s interesting to note that both of these tools were developed many years ago. GDS was first published in 1983 and the BASDEC was made available in 1992.


Dennis M, Kadri A, Coffey J. Depression in older people in the general hospital: a systematic review of screening instruments. Age Ageing. 2012 Jan 10. [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed abstract]

Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS)

Brief Assessment Schedule Depression Cards (BASDEC)

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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