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A latent trait analysis of an inventory designed to detect symptoms of anxiety and depression using an elderly community sample

  • A. Mackinnon (a1), H. Christensen (a1), A. F. Jorm (a1), A. S. Henderson (a1), R. Scott (a1) and A. E. Korten (a1)...


An 18-item inventory designed by Goldberg et al. (1987) to detect symptoms of anxiety and depression was administered to an elderly general population sample. Latent trait analysis was used to assess the dimensionality of the inventory and the location and discriminatory ability of the symptoms. The items showed different patterns of discrimination in this group compared to the sample of general practice attenders on which the inventory was developed. Overall, the items did define two correlated dimensions of anxiety and depression. In addition, a third dimension of sleep disturbance was detected. Both individual scales and the total symptom scores were sensitive and relatively specific detectors of depressive disorders assessed according to ICD-10 and DSM-III-R criteria. The retention of sleep items on their original scales did not affect the sensitivity of the scales to detect depressive disorders. A two-step administration procedure suggested for use in the administration of the scales was investigated but found to be sensitive to differences between the current sample and the sample on which the inventory was developed. This symptom inventory can be recommended for use in epidemiological investigations as a brief, valid and acceptable method of detecting elevated levels of anxiety and depression in elderly persons.


Corresponding author

1Address for correspondence: Dr A. Mackinnon, NH&MRC Social Psychiatry Research Unit, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia


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