Depressive symptomatology has been reported to be most prevalent over the age of 65. This study examined the effects of age (young ≤60 years, old >60 years) and sex on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), MMPI Scale 2 (Depression), and Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). Responses to somatic versus psychological complaints on the BDI were examined separately, and the physical malfunctioning subscale (D3) of the MMPI-2 was also evaluated. No age effects were found on any of the depression scales' total scores. On the BDI, the older group reported more somatic complaints than the younger group. Psychological compliants were reported equally for young and old groups. Women reported more depressed items on the MMPI-2 and reported a greater number of symptoms of physical malfunctioning (D3) than men for both age groups. No age by sex interaction reached significance. A report of greater physical malfunctioning (D3) was significantly associated with high scores on all the depression scales. The increased prevalence of somatic complaints on self-report depression scales probably results in higher scores, which are misinterpreted as representing more depression in the elderly population. It is recommended that a depression scale such as the GDS, which excludes somatic items, be used to assess depression in older adults.
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