The spectrum of worry in the community-dwelling elderly.
ABSTRACT In this study, we examine the prevalence and distribution of worry, its content, and its associations with quality of life and depression, based on a large sample of community-dwelling elderly. We will attempt to distinguish between pathological and non-pathological worry based on these associations.
A total of 2136 people aged between 65 and 96, of whom 66% were women, were recruited through general practitioners and interviewed in their own homes.
The GMS-AGECAT structured psychiatric interview was used to rate symptoms which were classified into five levels of severity of worry ranging from simple, non-excessive to generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).
In this study, 79% of the participants reported worrying, 37% worrying excessively, while 20% reported excessive, uncontrollable worry and 6.3% met criteria for GAD. Prevalence of all types of worry declined with age and was lower in men. The prevalence of depressed mood was similar in those without worry and those with non-severe worry (Wald post hoc test, p = 0.06) but rose significantly with each level of severe worry (Wald post hoc tests, all p < 0.05). Major depressive disorder was absent in those who did not worry, and had a prevalence of only 0.2% in those with non-severe worry (p = 0.552, Fisher's exact test). It has a significantly elevated prevalence at all levels of excessive worry, and a significantly higher prevalence in those with GAD. All levels of excessive worry were associated with reduced quality of life.
Severe worry is highly prevalent in the elderly; most severe worriers do not meet criteria for GAD, but have a reduced quality of life and an increased prevalence of depression.