A new Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) designed specifically for rating depression in the elderly was tested for reliability and validity and compared with the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRS-D) and the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS). In constructing the GDS a 100-item questionnaire was administered to normal and severely depressed subjects. The 30 questions most highly correlated with the total scores were then selected and readministered to new groups of elderly subjects. These subjects were classified as normal, mildly depressed or severely depressed on the basis of Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDC) for depression. The GDS, HRS-D and SDS were all found to be internally consistent measures, and each of the scales was correlated with the subject's number of RDC symptoms. However, the GDS and the HRS-D were significantly better correlated with RDC symptoms than was the SDS. The authors suggest that the GDS represents a reliable and valid self-rating depression screening scale for elderly populations.