Epidemiology of panic attacks, panic disorder and the moderating role of age: Results from a population-based study

J Affect Disord. 2018 Dec 1:241:627-633. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.08.069. Epub 2018 Aug 16.


Background: The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of panic attacks (PA) and panic disorder (PD) over the lifespan, determine the main correlates and analyze the potential moderating role of age.

Method: We analyzed cross-sectional data from a nationally-representative sample of 4,569 non-institutionalized adults. Three panic groups were created according to results in the CIDI interview: non-panic, PA (without PD) and PD. Panic groups were used as outcomes in adjusted multinomial regression models where several correlates were investigated. Interactions between each covariate and age were explored.

Results: The highest prevalence rates of PA (9.5%) and PD (3.3%) were found in people aged 30-39 and 40-49, respectively. Respondents aged 80 + presented the lowest rates. In the adjusted multinomial model, younger ages, having depression, and poorer levels of quality of life were significant correlates for both PA and PD, whereas being female and having 2 or more chronic conditions were only significant for PA (not for PD) and being a frequent drinker (last 12-months) only for PD. Age significantly interacted with frequent alcohol consumption in the last 12-months for PD. The predicted probability of having PD decreased with age for life-abstainer or occasional drinkers, whereas the probability increased with older ages for frequent drinkers.

Limitations: Low prevalence of PA and PD resulted in large confidence intervals whereas self-reports could be affected by recall bias.

Conclusions: Overall, our results suggest that the probability of having PA and PD decreases as people age and that the significant risk factors are independent of age. However, older adults with a frequent drink pattern seem to be at higher risk of PD. Future longitudinal studies are needed to determine the trajectories of PD and alcohol consumption over the lifespan.

Keywords: Interaction; Older adults; Panic attacks; Panic disorder; Population-based study; Young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Panic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Panic Disorder / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Research Design
  • Risk Factors