Background. Our prior psychometric work suggested that
older adults interviewed in 1981 in a
community survey were less likely than younger adults to report dysphoria.
We hypothesized that
this would also be true of older adults interviewed 13 years later.
Methods. This study is a population-based 13-year follow-up
survey of community-dwelling adults
living in East Baltimore in 1981. Subjects were the continuing participants
of the Baltimore
Epidemiologic Catchment Area Program. After excluding 269 adults who were
65 years of age and
older at initial interview in 1981, 1651 adults remained (347 aged 65 years
and older and 1304 who
were 30–64 years-old at follow-up).
We applied structural equations with a measurement model for dichotomous
data (the MIMIC
– multiple indicators, multiple causes – model) to compare
symptoms between adults who were 65
years and older at follow-up with younger adults, in relation to the nine
comprising the diagnostic criteria for major depression, adjusting for
several potentially influential
characteristics (namely, gender, self-reported ethnicity, educational attainment,
impairment, marital status and employment).
Results. Older adults were less likely to endorse sadness as
evidenced by a direct effect coefficient
of −0·335 (95% Confidence Interval −0·643, −0·027).
After adjusting for several potentially
influential characteristics, the direct effect of age was substantially
(−0·298 (95% CI −0·602, −0·006)).
Conclusions. Older adults in 1994, like older adults in 1981,
were less likely to endorse sadness than
younger persons. This finding suggests, but does not prove, that the observed
age difference in
reporting depression does not reflect a cohort effect.