Depression and anxiety in medically unwell older adults: prevalence and short-term course

Int Psychogeriatr. 2009 Aug;21(4):754-63. doi: 10.1017/S1041610209009399. Epub 2009 Jun 9.


Background: The objective of this study was to examine the prevalence and short-term course of depression and anxiety in a sample of hospitalized, medically unwell older adults, using both a symptom measure and a diagnostic instrument.

Methods: One hundred participants were recruited from in-patients in a geriatric hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Anxiety and depression were assessed shortly after admission, and again two months later, using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and the Geriatric Mental Status Schedule/ AGECAT diagnostic system.

Results: At Time 1, 60% of the sample exhibited anxiety symptoms at a sub-case level, while 16% had anxiety symptoms at a syndrome case level, whereas 48% of the participants had depression at syndrome level. The HADS and AGECAT were concordant with respect to anxiety for 78% of participants, but agreement was lower for depression; AGECAT identified a further 36 syndrome cases of depression not deemed depressed by the HADS. There was a significant decrease in overall rates of both depression and anxiety symptoms and syndromes from Time 1 to Time 2.

Conclusion: This study confirms the findings of previous research with respect to the high prevalence of depression in physically unwell older adults, and extends knowledge about anxiety in this group. Symptoms of anxiety are even more common than symptoms of depression in this group, especially around the time of admission to hospital. Over a relatively short time period, there is a marked reduction in symptoms, but levels of anxiety and depression remain high.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Geriatrics
  • Hospitals, Special
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Patient Discharge
  • Personality Assessment
  • Victoria