Our hypothesis was that older adults are less likely than younger adults to acknowledge dysphoria or anhedonia even at the same level of depression. Study subjects were 3,141 participants in Baltimore, Maryland, and 3,469 participants in the Durham-Piedmont region of North Carolina who had complete data on symptoms of depression active in the one month prior to interview, as well as several covariates thought to be related to depression. The effect of age on the endorsement of the dysphoria/anhedonia stem question from the section on Major Depression in the Diagnostic Interview Schedule was estimated in the two independently gathered samples employing structural equations with a measurement model. The results indicate that, even accounting for differences due to overall level of depressive symptoms, as well as gender, minority status, educational attainment, marital status, employment status, and cognitive impairment, dysphoria was less likely to be endorsed by persons 65 years of age and older. This bias against older adults may account in part for the low rates of Major Depression reported for older persons from epidemiologic studies employing the standard diagnostic criteria.
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