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J Anxiety Disord. 2013 Aug;27(6):608-18. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2013.03.008. Epub 2013 Apr 3.

Do negative affect characteristics and subjective memory concerns increase risk for late life anxiety?

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Department of Psychology, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, USA.


To better understand the development and exacerbation of late-life anxiety, we tested a risk model positing that trait negative affect (NA) characteristics would interact with cognitive functioning, thereby increasing some older adults' risk for increased anxiety symptoms. The moderator-mediator model consisted of measures of NA, cognitive functioning, and their interaction, as predictors of later Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale scores (HARS) via a mediational process, subjective memory concerns (SMCs). Older adults (aged 65-years and over; M(age)=76.7 years, SD=6.90 years) completed evaluations four times over approximately 18 months. A latent growth curve model including Anxiety Sensitivity Index total score (ASI), Mattis Dementia Rating Scale-2 (DRS) total raw score, the ASI×DRS interaction, a SMC measure as mediator, HARS intercept (scores at times 3 and 4), and HARS slope provided good fit. The ASI×DRS-2 interaction at Time 1 predicted HARS slope score (β=-.34, p<.05). When ASI score was high, stronger cognitive functioning was associated with fewer anxiety symptoms. The indirect effect of ASI score predicting HARS score 18-months later through the SMC mediator was statistically significant (β=.08, p<.05). Results suggest that the cognitive functioning changes associated with aging might contribute to the development of anxiety symptoms in older adults with specific NA traits. Implications for predicting and preventing late life anxiety disorders are discussed.


Aging; Anxiety symptoms; Cognitive functioning; Memory complaints; Older adults; Risk factors

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