Objectives: Current information on the prevalence of psychiatric disorders among older adults in the United States is lacking. Prevalence of anxiety, mood, and substance disorders was examined by age (18-44, 45-64, 65-74, and 75 years and older) and sex. Covariates of disorders for older adults (65 years and older) were explored.
Design: Cross-sectional epidemiologic study, using data from the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication.
Setting: Community-based epidemiologic survey.
Participants: Representative national sample of community-dwelling adults in the United States.
Measurements: The World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview was used to assess Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition psychiatric disorders.
Results: Prevalence of 12-month and lifetime mood, anxiety, and substance-use disorders was lower for older adults (65 years and older) than younger age groups: 2.6% for mood disorder, 7.0% for anxiety disorder, 0 for any substance-use disorder, and 8.5% for any of these disorders (for any disorder, 18-44 years = 27.6%, 45-64 years = 22.4%). Among older adults, presence of a 12-month anxiety disorder was associated with female sex, lower education, being unmarried, and three or more chronic conditions. Presence of a 12-month mood disorder was associated with disability. Similar patterns were noted for lifetime disorders (any disorder: 18-44 years = 46.4%, 45-64 years = 43.7%, and 65 years and older = 20.9%).
Conclusions: This study documents the continued pattern of lower rates of formal diagnoses for elders. These rates likely underestimate the burden of late-life psychiatric disorders, given the potential for underdiagnosis, clinical significance of subthreshold symptoms, and lack of representation from high-risk older adults (e.g., medically ill, long-term care residents).