Prevalence and correlates of anxiety symptoms in well-functioning older adults: Findings from the health aging and body composition study

Kala M. Mehta, Eleanor M. Simonsick, Brenda W.J.H. Penninx, Richard Schulz, Susan M. Rubin, Suzanne Satterfield, Kristine Yaffe

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138 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence and correlates of anxiety symptoms in the absence of depression, in older black and white people. DESIGN: Cross-sectional study. SETTING: Baseline assessment of a biracial cohort of community-resident well-functioning men and women aged 70 to 79 participating in the Health Aging and Body Composition study. PARTICIPANTS: Three thousand forty-one participants (mean age 74, 52% women, 58% white). MEASUREMENTS: Participants were asked about three major anxiety symptoms (feeling fearful, tense/keyed-up, or shaky/nervous) derived from the Hopkins Symptom Checklist. Participants were considered to have anxiety symptoms if they reported feeling at least two anxiety symptoms "a little" or one symptom "quite a bit" in the past week. Logistic regression models were used to identify demographic, psychosocial, and health-related correlates of anxiety symptoms. RESULTS: Anxiety symptoms occurred in 15% of older people without depression and 43% of those with depression. Of nondepressed older people, women were more likely to have anxiety symptoms than men (P < .01), especially white women (20% prevalence). After multivariate adjustment, the chronic conditions of urinary incontinence (odds ratio (OR) = 1.5, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.1-1.9), hearing impairment (OR = 1.4, 95% CI = 1.02.1), hypertension (OR = 1.3, 95% CI = 1.0-1.7) and poor sleep (OR = 1.7, 95% CI = 1.3-2.4) were associated with a higher prevalence of anxiety symptoms. Persons with poorer psychosocial functioning, low personal mastery (OR = 2.0, 95% CI = 1.6-2.5) and the need for more emotional support (OR = 2.2, 95% CI = 1.7-2.8), also had higher rates of anxiety symptoms. CONCLUSION: Anxiety symptoms are common in depressed and nondepressed older people. Given the high prevalence and coexistence with depressive symptoms, it will be important to conduct longitudinal studies that assess depressive and anxiety symptoms to clarify the direction and influence and disentangle the health-related consequences of these two conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-504
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Aged 65 and older
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Anxiety symptoms

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