Background: The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) is widely used but evaluation of its psychometric properties has produced equivocal results. Little is known about its structure in non-clinical samples of older people.
Methods: We used data from four cohorts in the HALCyon collaborative research program into healthy aging: the Caerphilly Prospective Study, the Hertfordshire Ageing Study, the Hertfordshire Cohort Study, and the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921. We used exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis with multi-group comparisons to establish the structure of the HADS and test for factorial invariance between samples.
Results: Exploratory factor analysis showed a bi-dimensional structure (anxiety and depression) of the scale in men and women in each cohort. We tested a hypothesized three-factor model but high correlations between two of the factors made a two-factor model more psychologically plausible. Multi-group confirmatory factor analysis revealed that the sizes of the respective item loadings on the two factors were effectively identical in men and women from the same cohort. There was more variation between cohorts, particularly those from different parts of the U.K. and in whom the HADS was administered differently. Differences in social-class distribution accounted for part of this variation.
Conclusions: Scoring the HADS as two subscales of anxiety and depression is appropriate in non-clinical populations of older men and women. However, there were differences between cohorts in the way that individual items were linked with the constructs of anxiety and depression, perhaps due to differences in sociocultural factors and/or in the administration of the scale.