Prevalence and factors associated with anxiety and depression in older adults: Gender differences in psychosocial indicators

J Affect Disord. 2020 Apr 15;267:114-122. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.02.018. Epub 2020 Feb 8.


Background: With increasing numbers of people living into old age, health functioning and good quality of life are central to public health policy in aging. However, quality of life for many elders is undermined by anxiety and depression. Understanding gender differences in the determinants of anxiety and depression symptoms is crucial to policy and practice.

Objective: To examine gender-specific symptom subtypes of later-life anxiety and depression, in relation to their socio-demographic, social and health context.

Method: Cross-sectional study using data from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA, 2009-2011). Latent class analysis defined gender-specific symptom profiles for anxiety and depression. Correlates of latent classes were analysed using logistic regression, assessing associations between socio-demographic factors; social indicators and health indicators.

Results: Four classes of self-reported anxiety and depression were derived: 'low', 'comorbidity', 'anxiety and subthreshold depression' and 'anxiety' only. With males 8% were comorbid, 26% subthreshold and 26% with anxiety only. With female 12% were comorbid, 27% subthreshold and 29% with anxiety only. While symptom expression may relate to stress from common ageing, our findings show clear gradations of symptoms associated with a range of social and health indicators.

Conclusion: Our findings support the actuality of comorbid depression and anxiety with further evidence for anxiety and subthreshold depression. A sizeable subgroup confirms that many older people experience anxiety only. Our study indicates the need for a more sensitive recognition of needs and a more nuanced policy agenda for older people towards improving the quality of their social life.

Keywords: Affective disorders; Loneliness; Long term health; Old age psychiatry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sex Characteristics