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Int Psychogeriatr. 2014 May 9:1-14. [Epub ahead of print]

Experimental examination of worry among older and young adults.

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  • West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA.


ABSTRACT Background: Worry is experienced by many older adults, yet our understanding of the emotional experience of late-life worry is poor as findings regarding older adults are inferred from findings of studies conducted with young adults. In the present study, we aimed to characterize age differences in affect, self-reported arousal, and physiological arousal experienced during worry. Methods: Fifty-three young (M = 21.4, SD = 2.6 years) and 55 older community-dwelling adults (M = 69.1, SD = 8.1 years) participated in an experimental induction of worry or pleasant/neutral recall. Measures collected included: Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ), worry intensity item, Multiple Affect Adjective Checklist-Revised (MAACL-R), Self-Assessment Maniken arousal item, and heart rate. Standardized residual scores were calculated to represent change from baseline for self-report and psychophysiological measures. Results: Older adults had lower trait worry and worry intensity at baseline. A significant age by induction type interaction was found for the MAACL-R subscales of anxiety, depression, hostility, and positive affect. Compared with young adults, older adults experienced smaller changes in emotions in response to the worry induction than in the recall induction. For both worry and recall inductions, older adults exhibited less change in self-reported arousal and interbeat intervals from baseline compared with young adults. Conclusions: Findings from the present study illuminate both similarities and differences in the experience of worry for older and young adults. This study provides preliminary evidence for the characterization of late-life worry as generating less anxiety than worry during young adulthood.

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