Objectives: The objectives of this study are to provide current estimates of the prevalence and correlates of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Methods: The authors used Wave 2 data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, which included 12,312 adults 55+ and older. In addition to examining the prevalence of GAD in the past year, this study explored psychiatric and medical comorbidity, health-related quality of life, and rates of help-seeking and self-medication.
Results: The past-year prevalence of GAD in this sample was 2.80%, although only 0.53% had GAD without Axis I or II comorbidity. The majority of individuals with GAD had mood or other anxiety disorders, and approximately one quarter had a personality disorder. Individuals with GAD were also more likely to have various chronic health problems although these associations disappeared after controlling for psychiatric comorbidity. Health-related quality of life was reduced among older adults with GAD, even after controlling for health conditions and comorbid major depression. Finally, only 18% of those without and 28.3% with comorbid Axis I disorders sought professional help for GAD in the past year. Self-medication for symptom relief was rare (7.2%).
Conclusions: GAD is a common and disabling disorder in later life that is highly comorbid with mood, anxiety, and personality disorders; psychiatric comorbidity is associated with an increased risk of medical conditions in this population. Considering that late-life GAD is associated with impaired quality of life but low levels of professional help-seeking increased effort is needed to help individuals with this disorder to access effective treatments.