We tested the validity of two screens for depression in older African–Caribbean adults, the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) and a new Caribbean Culture-Specific Screen for emotional distress (CCSS). Two independent criteria were used for validity: (a) a psychiatric diagnosis derived from GMS–AGECAT, and (b) a culturally sensitive assessment of mental disorder, derived from a tool developed with local African–Caribbean religious healers.
One hundred and sixty-four consecutive African–Caribbean primary care users, aged 60 years or older, were screened with the GDS and the CCSS. Diagnostic interviews were carried out on 80% of high scorers and 20% of low scorers.
The number of cases detected by the two separate diagnostic approaches was similar. However, the agreement between who was and who was not a case was only modest. At a cutoff of $5, the GDS was an adequate case detector for psychiatric depression, and, at a cut-off of $4, for ‘depressed/lost spirit’, as defined by culture-specific criteria. It performed as well as the new CCSS.
At a cut-off of $4 the 15-item GDS can be recommended as a case detector for significant forms of depression in older African–Caribbean people living in south London.