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Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2006 Jun;14(6):507-14.

The prevalence of phobia and its associated factors in a multiracial aging urban population.

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Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY 11203, USA.



There have been few multiracial epidemiologic community-based studies of phobia in older adults. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of phobia and associated factors among older persons living in a northeastern urban area.


Using 1990 census data for Brooklyn, NY, the authors attempted to interview all persons age 55+ in randomly selected block groups. The final sample consisted of 214 whites and 860 blacks. The authors used an adaptation of George's Social Antecedent Model for examining the association of 18 individual variables and one interactive variable with the presence of a phobia. The dependent variable was derived from the Guy's/Age Concern community survey. The sample was weighted by race and gender. To control for design effects, the authors used SUDAAN for the data analysis.


A total of 8.9% of the sample met criteria for a current phobia and 10.2% met phobia criteria at some time during their life. Using logistic regression analysis, the authors found six variables-higher personal income, more depressive symptoms, poorer physical health, use of prayer as a coping strategy, use of spiritualists or their products, and not having been raised by both parents-to be significantly associated with a current phobia.


The prevalence rate of phobia was comparable to rates for older adults in the urban areas of the Epidemiologic Catchment Area study suggesting that prevalence has remained stable over the past two decades. Consistent with earlier studies, there were significant associations among phobia, depressive symptoms, and physical illness. Many of the demographic and social variables, including race, that had been reported previously to be associated with phobias in younger samples were not significant in this study.

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