While the rate of mood and anxiety disorders seems to decline as people age, these conditions remain common in older adults—especially women—according to a study. Researchers examined rates of mood and anxiety disorders in 2,575 people age 55 and older who were living in the community.

Five percent had experienced a mood disorder such as major depression or bipolar disorder in the previous year. Twelve percent had an anxiety disorder including panic disorder, phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Three percent had co-occurring mood and anxiety disorders.

All of the conditions declined with age when comparing those age 55 to 64 with those 85 and older: 8 percent versus 2 percent for mood disorders, 17 percent versus 8 percent for anxiety, and 5 percent versus 0 percent for both conditions. Men also were less likely to have any of the disorders. Since the study did not include people in assisted living or nursing facilities, the overall rate in this age group may be even higher.

The results indicate that a significant proportion of older people have a mood or anxiety disorder—which are often underreported and undertreated. If you think you're depressed or anxious, talk to your doctor.

Source: Archives of General Psychiatry, Volume 67, page 489, May 2010

Publication Review By: Karen L. Swartz, M.D.

Published: 20 Aug 2013

Last Modified: 20 Aug 2013