Six-month prevalence and correlates of generalized anxiety disorder among primary care patients aged 70 years and above: Results from the ESA-services study

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2019 Feb;34(2):315-323. doi: 10.1002/gps.5023. Epub 2018 Dec 18.


Objectives: To estimate the 6-month prevalence of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in primary care patients aged 70 years and above and to describe their clinical profile, including types of worries.

Methods/design: Participants (N = 1193) came from the Étude sur la Santé des Aînés (ESA) services study conducted in Quebec, Canada. An in-person structured interview was used to identify GAD and other anxiety/depressive disorders as well as to identify types of worries. Three groups were created (ie, patients with GAD, patients with another anxiety disorder, and patients without anxiety disorders) and compared on several sociodemographic and clinical characteristics using multinomial logistic regression analyses.

Results: The 6-month prevalence of GAD was 2.7%. Findings also indicated that the most common types of worries were about health, being a burden for loved ones, and losing autonomy. Compared with respondents without anxiety disorders, older patients with GAD were more likely to be women, be more educated, suffer from depression, use antidepressants, be unsatisfied with their lives, and use health services. In comparison with respondents with another anxiety disorder, those with GAD were 4.5 times more likely to suffer from minor depression.

Conclusions: GAD has a high prevalence in primary care patients aged 70 years and above. Clinicians working in primary care settings should screen for GAD, since it remains underdiagnosed. In addition, it may be associated with depression and life dissatisfaction. Screening tools for late-life GAD should include worry themes that are specific to aging.

Keywords: 6-month prevalence; correlates; epidemiology; generalized anxiety disorder (GAD); older adults; primary care patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Services
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quebec / epidemiology