Comparison of anxiety as reported by older people with intellectual disabilities and by older people with normal intelligence

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2014 Dec;22(12):1391-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2013.04.017. Epub 2013 Sep 5.


Objectives: Older people with intellectual disabilities (ID) may experience more and different symptoms of anxiety than older people with normal intelligence.

Study questions: (1) Is the reported severity of anxiety in this group similar to that in the general older population; (2) Are specific anxiety symptoms reported as frequently by both groups?

Design: Cross-sectional.

Setting: Formal Dutch intellectual disability services and Dutch population-based study.

Participants: One hundred fifty-four participants of the Healthy Ageing and Intellectual Disability study with mild or moderate ID (IQ <70), aged 55-85 years, and 2,917 participants of the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam with normal intelligence, aged 55-85 years.

Measurements: The general anxiety subscale of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.

Results: Mean (standard deviation) Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale total score of subjects with ID was significantly higher than that of subjects with normal intelligence (3.53 [3.03]) versus 2.53 [3.30]; p <0.01), whereas the percentage of scores above cutoff in both groups was similar. Four of 7 items were more often reported as present by subjects with ID: "tense or wound up feelings," "frightened feelings," "worrying thoughts," and "sudden feelings of panic."

Conclusions: Older people with ID report more symptoms of anxiety than older people with normal intelligence. Tense feelings and worrying especially need more attention, because more than one-half of all older people with ID reported such symptoms.

Keywords: Aging; anxiety; intellectual disability.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / epidemiology
  • Intellectual Disability / psychology*
  • Intelligence / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology