The Value of Fatigue Severity to Rule Out Depression in Older Adult Patients With Cancer

L. Deckx*, M. van den Akker, D. Vergeer, D. van Abbema, F. van den Berkmortel, L. Linsen, E.T. de Jonge, B. Houben, M. van Driel, F. Buntinx

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose/Objectives: To evaluate whether fatigue severity can serve as a cue to investigate the presence of depression in older adult patients with cancer.

Design: Cross-sectional observational cohort study.

Setting: Seven hospitals and general practices in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Sample: 205 older adult patients with cancer and 436 older adults without cancer (aged 70 years or older).

Methods: The diagnostic accuracy of fatigue as a proxy for depression was evaluated using sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values.

Main Research Variables: Fatigue was measured with a visual analog scale, and depression was measured with the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale.

Findings: Fifty-six percent of the population experienced fatigue, and 13% were depressed. For fatigue as a cue for depression, sensitivity was 82%, specificity was 47%, positive predictive value was 18%, and negative predictive value was 95%.

Conclusions: The data confirm that fatigue is a valuable cue to investigate the presence of depression because 82% of depressed participants were correctly identified by fatigue. The assessment of fatigue severity is intuitive, quick, straightforward, and usually already implemented.

Implications for Nursing: Identification of depression is difficult in older adult patients with cancer. Instead of experiencing affective symptoms of depression, older adult patients are more likely to disclose somatic symptoms, such as fatigue, which often overlap with cancer-related symptoms. Nurses should be aware of this problem and should be alert for the possibility of depression in older adult patients presenting with fatigue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E302-E309
Number of pages8
JournalOncology Nursing Forum
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015


  • cancer in older adults
  • aging
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • screening
  • CARE

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