Psychophysiological arousal in older adults: a critical review

Clin Psychol Rev. 2001 Jun;21(4):609-30. doi: 10.1016/s0272-7358(00)00052-0.


In spite of the relatively high prevalence rates of anxiety disorders (AD) and related symptoms, very little is known about the experience, presentation, and assessment of anxiety in later life. Because the physiology of the autonomic nervous system changes with age, an enhanced understanding of how these developmental changes affect the somatic-physiological response patterns to anxiety-evoking stimuli among older adults may help explain whether we can generalize current assessment and treatment practices and procedures for AD from younger to older adults. In this paper, we describe and critically evaluate studies that have employed psychophysiological recording of autonomic arousal to anxiety-arousing or stressful stimuli among samples of younger and older adults. The conclusions one can draw from the review are quite limited by both the paucity of relevant literature and the methodological limitations of the published studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / classification*
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Arousal* / classification
  • Arousal* / physiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Psychological Tests
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / classification*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Reproducibility of Results