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The structure of late-life depressive symptoms across a 20-year span: a taxometric investigation.

Holland JM, Schutte KK, Brennan PL, Moos RH. The structure of late-life depressive symptoms across a 20-year span: a taxometric investigation. Psychology and aging. 2010 Mar 1; 25(1):142-56.

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Past studies of the underlying structure of depressive symptoms have yielded mixed results, with some studies supporting a continuous conceptualization and others supporting a categorical one. However, no study has examined this research question with an exclusively older adult sample, despite the potential uniqueness of late-life depressive symptoms. In the present study, the underlying structure of late-life depressive symptoms was examined among a sample of 1,289 individuals across 3 waves of data collection spanning 20 years. The authors employed a taxometric methodology using indicators of depression derived from the Research Diagnostic Criteria (R. L. Spitzer, J. Endicott, and E. Robins, 1978). Maximum eigenvalue analyses and inchworm consistency tests generally supported a categorical conceptualization and identified a group that was primarily characterized by thoughts about death and suicide. However, compared to a categorical depression variable, depressive symptoms treated continuously were generally better predictors of relevant criterion variables. These findings suggest that thoughts of death and suicide may characterize a specific type of late-life depression, yet a continuous conceptualization still typically maximizes the predictive utility of late-life depressive symptoms.

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