APH 2009, 67, 15-29:

Measurement Equivalence of the CES-D 8 in the General Population in Belgium: a Gender Perspective

S. Van de Velde, K. Levecque, P. Bracke

Keywords: depression, factor analysis, gender, validation, psychometrics

International research consistently finds gender differences in depression, but do women genuinely experience more complaints or are the findings contaminated by group-specific elements unrelated to depression but affecting its measurement? The study of gender differences in depression depends on the measurement quality of the instrument used to evaluate depression. In the present study we test the measurement equivalence of a shorter version of a commonly used instrument in mental health research, the Center for Epidemiologic Studies - Depression Scale (CES-D), using data from the Belgian sample of the third round of the European Social Survey (N=1794). Evidence for measurement invariance can be established within the multigroup confirmatory factor analysis framework. This method allows us to evaluate a nested hierarchy of hypotheses to test different levels of cross-group measurement invariance: configural, metric, scalar and residual invariance, and clarifies under what conditions meaningful comparisons between the male and female respondents can be made. The best fitting factor model is then used to estimate the ‘true’ prevalence of depressive symptoms for both groups. In our study measurement equivalence is established at all levels, indicating that the current depression scale allows defensible quantitative gender comparisons. Our data also confirm the epidemiological finding that women report more complaints of depression than men.