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Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2011 May;19(5):482-90. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e3181ec806c.

Elevated cortisol in older adults with generalized anxiety disorder is reduced by treatment: a placebo-controlled evaluation of escitalopram.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO 63110, USA. lenzee@wustl.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common disorder in older adults, which has been linked to hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in this age group. The authors examined whether treatment of GAD in older adults with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) corrects this HPA axis hyperactivity.

METHODS:

The authors examined adults aged 60 years and older with GAD in a 12-week randomized controlled trial comparing the SSRI escitalopram with placebo. The authors collected salivary cortisol at six daily time points for 2 consecutive days to assess peak and total (area under the curve) cortisol, both at baseline and posttreatment.

RESULTS:

Compared with placebo-treated patients, SSRI-treated patients had a significantly greater reduction in both peak and total cortisol. This reduction in cortisol was limited to patients with elevated (above the median) baseline cortisol, in whom SSRI-treated patients showed substantially greater reduction in cortisol than did placebo-treated patients. Reductions in cortisol were associated with improvements in anxiety. Additionally, genetic variability at the serotonin transporter promoter predicted cortisol changes.

CONCLUSIONS:

SSRI treatment of GAD in older adults reduces HPA axis hyperactivity. Further research should determine whether these treatment-attributable changes are sustained and beneficial.

PMID:
20808146
PMCID:
PMC3424606
DOI:
10.1097/JGP.0b013e3181ec806c
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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