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Original Article
May 2010

High Occurrence of Mood and Anxiety Disorders Among Older Adults: The National Comorbidity Survey Replication

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Psychiatry (Drs Byers and Yaffe), Neurology (Dr Yaffe), Epidemiology and Biostatistics (Dr Yaffe), and Medicine, Division of Geriatrics (Dr Covinsky), University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Drs Byers, Yaffe, and Covinsky); The Geriatric Mental Health Alliance, New York (Mr Friedman), and Department of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College, Weill Cornell Institute of Geriatric Psychiatry, White Plains (Dr Bruce), New York.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67(5):489-496. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.35

Context  Little is known about prevalence rates of DSM-IV disorders across age strata of older adults, including common conditions such as individual and coexisting mood and anxiety disorders.

Objective  To determine nationally representative estimates of 12-month prevalence rates of mood, anxiety, and comorbid mood-anxiety disorders across young-old, mid-old, old-old, and oldest-old community-dwelling adults.

Design  The National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) is a population-based probability sample of 9282 participants 18 years and older, conducted between February 2001 and April 2003. The NCS-R survey used the fully structured World Health Organization World Mental Health Survey version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview.

Setting  Continental United States.

Participants  We studied the 2575 participants 55 years and older who were part of NCS-R (43%, 55-64 years; 32%, 65-74 years; 20%, 75-84 years; 5%, ≥85 years). This included only noninstitutionalized adults, as all NCS-R participants resided in households within the community.

Main Outcome Measures  Twelve-month prevalence of mood disorders (major depressive disorder, dysthymia, bipolar disorder), anxiety disorders (panic disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobia, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder), and coexisting mood-anxiety disorder were assessed using DSM-IV criteria. Prevalence rates were weighted to adjust for the complex design to infer generalizability to the US population.

Results  The likelihood of having a mood, anxiety, or combined mood-anxiety disorder generally showed a pattern of decline with age (P < .05). Twelve-month disorders showed higher rates in women compared with men, a statistically significant trend with age. In addition, anxiety disorders were as high if not higher than mood disorders across age groups (overall 12-month rates: mood, 5% and anxiety, 12%). No differences were found between race/ethnicity groups.

Conclusion  Prevalence rates of DSM-IV mood and anxiety disorders in late life tend to decline with age, but remain very common, especially in women. These results highlight the need for intervention and prevention strategies.