Anxiety disorders in later life: A report from the longitudinal aging study Amsterdam

Aartjan T.F. Beekman, Marijke A. Bremmer, Dorly J.H. Deeg, Anton J.L.M. Van Balkom, Jan H. Smit, Edwin De Beurs, Richard Van Dyck, Willem Van Tilburg

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Objective. To study the prevalence and risk factors of anxiety disorders in the older (55-85) population of The Netherlands. Method. The Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA) is based on a random sample of 3107 older adults, stratified for age and sex, which was drawn from the community registries of 11 municipalities in three regions in The Netherlands. Anxiety disorders were diagnosed using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule in a two-stage screening design. The risk factors under study comprise vulnerability, stress and network-related variables. Both bivariate and multivariate statistical methods were used to evaluate the risk factors. Results. The overall prevalence of anxiety disorders was estimated at 10.2%. Generalized anxiety disorder was the most common disorder (7.3%), followed by phobic disorders (3.1%). Both panic disorder (1.0%) and obsessive compulsive disorder (0.6%) were rare. These figures are roughly similar to previous findings. Ageing itself did not have any impact on the prevalence in both bivariate and multivariate analyses. The impact of other factors did not change much with age. Vulnerability factors (female sex, lower levels of education, having suffered extreme experiences during World War II and external locus of control) appeared to dominate, while stresses commonly experienced by older people (recent losses in the family and chronic physical illness) also played a part. Of the network-related variables, only a smaller size of the network was associated with anxiety disorders. Conclusions. Anxiety disorders are common in later life. The risk factors support using a vulnerability-stress model to conceptualize anxiety disorders, Although the prevalence of risk factors changes dramatically with age, their impact is not age-dependent. The risk factors indicate which groups of older people are at a high risk for anxiety disorders and in whom active screening and treatment may be warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-726
Number of pages10
JournalInternational journal of geriatric psychiatry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 1998


  • Anxiety
  • Community
  • Elderly
  • Prevalence
  • Risk factors

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