Expert in Aging Research Discusses Depression Screening Bias
February 1, 2012
By Vincent Lim:
Frances Yang, a research scientist at the Institute for Aging Research at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital's Department of Psychiatry, discussed issues related to how older adults from different ethnic and racial backgrounds are screened for depression on January 10 at the USC School of Social Work. The event was sponsored by the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging at the USC School of Social Work.
Yang, who earned her bachelor's degree and doctorate in gerontology from the USC Davis School of Gerontology, conducts research using item-response theory (IRT) to study the properties of mental health measures for older minorities. IRT is a model that can be used to analyze questionnaire items that measure psychological conditions such as depression. The method originated in the field of educational testing.
She talked about her published work that critically examines the widely used Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale, which is a 20-item self-report questionnaire designed to screen for depressive symptoms in non-institutionalized adults.
Yang found that test questions in the CES-D exhibit evidence of bias that could present a skewed picture of depression for Latino, African American or Asian older adults. Yang said cultural and socio-demographic differences can influence how people answer questions about depression.