On becoming depressed or anxious in late life: Similar vulnerability factors but different effects of stressful life events

E. De Beurs, A. Beekman, S. Geerlings, D. Deeg, R. Van Dyck, W. Van Tilburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Little research has been done on the uniqueness of risk profiles for depression and anxiety in late life. Aims: Delineating risk factors for the decline of mental health in older persons, comparing risk profiles for developing symptoms of pure depression, pure anxiety and both anxiety and depression in a prospective design. Method: Self-report data on depression and anxiety were collected from community-dwelling older respondents (≥ 55 years) on two occasions, 3 years apart. Data from emotionally healthy respondents (n=1810) were used to investigate the effects of long-standing vulnerability factors and stressful life events. Results: After 3 years 9% of the subjects had scored beyond the thresholds for symptoms. Vulnerability for depression and anxiety was quite similar, but life events differed: onset of depression was predicted by death of a partner or other relatives; onset of anxiety was best predicted by having a partner who developed a major illness. No support for moderator effects between vulnerability factors and stress was found; the effects were purely additive. Conclusions: Depression and anxiety have many risk factors in common, but specific risk factors also were found, especially in subjects developing both depression and anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-431
Number of pages6
JournalBritish journal of psychiatry
Issue numberNOV.
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Cite this