JAMA logoThe knowledge of mood and anxiety disorders in older individuals could be a key to quite a few underlying disorders. A recent report alleges that rates of mood and anxiety disorders reduce with progressing age but in case of older adults, especially women conditions decline to change.

The authors commented, “Knowledge of the prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders and co-existing mood-anxiety disorder in older community-dwelling adults is important; these are hidden and under treated but treatable disorders associated with poor health outcomes.”

Amy L. Byers, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and colleagues conducted an experiment to determine nationally representative estimates of mood, anxiety and combined mood and anxiety disorders.

The experiment was conducted by using a sample of 2,575 survey participants aged 55 and older. Amongst them 43 percent were ages 55 to 64; 32 percent, 65 to 74 years; 20 percent, 75 to 84 years; and 5 percent were 85 years or older. From the sample, 5 percent of participants had a mood disorder, including major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, within the previous year. 12 percent had anxiety disorder and 3 percent had co-occurring mood and anxiety disorders.

During the investigation the persons in the age group of 55 to 64 were compared with those aged 85 and older. The outcome was that 7.6 percent of 55 to 64 year old persons had mood disorders while only 2.4 percent of 85 years and older persons were facing the same. It also appeared that 16.6 percent persons from the age group of 55 to 64 had anxiety disorders whereas the remaining age group was 8.1 percent. While considering persons suffering from both the conditions 4.8 percent of the persons aged 55 to 64 showed disorders but none of the persons from age 85 and older seemingly came in this category.

However, women appeared to face more disorders than men. While 6.4 percent of women suffered from mood disorders only 3 percent of men faced the same. Also when 14.7 percent women suffered from anxiety disorder, 7.6 percent of men suffered from the same. But when both the disorders were categorized, the numbers revealed 3.7 percent women facing disorders in comparison to only 1.6 percent men.

In their findings the investigators wrote, “The study of nationally representative samples provides evidence for research and policy planning that helps to define community-based priorities for future psychiatric research. The findings of this study emphasize the importance of individual and co-existing mood and anxiety disorders when studying older adults, even the oldest cohorts. Further study of risk factors, course and severity is needed to target intervention, prevention and health care needs.”

It has been apparently observed by the authors that considering the constant aging of the U.S. population, the potential public health burden of late-life mental health disorders will likely grow as well. Hence it is vital to continue epidemiologic monitoring of the mental health status of young and old.

The report is published in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.