The relationship between generalized anxiety disorder, depression and mortality in old age




The association between depression and an increased risk of death in elderly persons has been established in both clinical and community studies. Co-occurrence of depression and generalized anxiety has been shown to represent more severe and more chronic psychopathology. However, little is known about the relation between generalized anxiety disorder, mixed anxiety-depression (generalized anxiety disorder and depression) and excess mortality in the elderly.


To investigate whether generalized anxiety and mixed anxiety-depression are associated with mortality.


Generalized anxiety disorder, mixed anxiety-depression and depression were assessed in 4051 older persons with a ten-year follow-up of community death registers. The mortality risk of generalized anxiety, depression and mixed anxiety-depression was calculated after adjustment for demographic variables, physical illness, functional disabilities and social vulnerability.


In generalized anxiety disorder and mixed anxiety-depression no significant excess mortality was found. In depression a significant excess mortality was found in men [HR 1.44 (1.09–1.89)] but not in women [HR 1.04 (0.87–1.24)] after adjustment for the different variables.


In elderly persons depression increases the risk of death in men. Neither generalized anxiety nor mixed anxiety-depression are associated with excess mortality. Generalized anxiety disorder may even predict less mortality in depressive elderly people. The relation between generalized anxiety disorder and its possibly protective effect on mortality has to be further explored. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.