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Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2019 Apr;34(4):601-608. doi: 10.1002/gps.5058. Epub 2019 Jan 22.

Anxiety symptom levels are persistent in older adults with a mental disorder: A 33-month follow-up study.

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Department of Geriatric Psychiatry, Diakonhjemmet Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
Vestfold Hospital Trust, Norwegian National Advisory Unit on Aging and Health, Toensberg, Norway.
Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
Department of Geriatric Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
Centre for Old Age Psychiatric Research, Innlandet Hospital Trust, Ottestad, Norway.
Institute of Clinical Medicine, Campus Ahus, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
Health Services Research Unit, Akershus University Hospital, Lørenskog, Norway.



Anxiety symptoms are common in old age and have been suggested as risk factors for development of cognitive impairment and mortality. The objective of the present study was to investigate whether anxiety symptoms among older adults with a mental health diagnosis are persistent, and severity of anxiety predicts cognitive decline and mortality.


We collected data from 201 patients referred to specialist mental health service in a department of geriatric psychiatry. Of these, 150 were reexamined after 33 months, while 51 patients died before follow-up. Mean age (SD) at baseline among the patients that were reexamined was 73.4 (7.3) years, and 67% were women. The Geriatric Anxiety Inventory (GAI) was used to measure anxiety symptoms at baseline and follow-up. We investigated whether higher GAI scores at baseline were associated with persistence of anxiety. Associations with cognitive decline or mortality were also explored. The associations were estimated by use of trajectory analysis and regression models.


Seventy-four percentages had the same level of anxiety symptoms, and 29% had a high level of anxiety at baseline and follow-up. GAI score at baseline was not associated with cognitive decline or mortality at 33-month follow-up.


In a longitudinal study of anxiety symptoms among older adults in specialist mental health services, we demonstrate persistent high or low levels of anxiety symptoms. Anxiety trajectories over time were not predicted by patient characteristics. Also the level of anxiety cannot be used as predictor for future cognitive decline or mortality in a clinical population.


anxiety; cognitive decline; follow-up; geriatric anxiety inventory; mortality; persistence; severity


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