• State-Trait Anxiety Inventory;
  • older patients;
  • old age psychiatry;
  • primary care;
  • anxiety;
  • well-being;
  • chronic disease;
  • nursing

Background. A previous study using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) has documented a very high prevalence of anxiety symptoms among older inpatients. The STAI produced two main concepts on factor analysis –‘Nervousness’ and ‘Well-being’– and high scores on both caused the high overall score in these patients.

Aim. To investigate how the scorings on the STAI evolve after discharge in older patients in order to understand better the reasons for their high scorings while in hospital.

Methods. Sixty-three patients who had been scored on the STAI during their stay in an elder care department were followed up at 1–3 and 12 months after discharge. Data were analysed by ancova for unbalanced designs.

Results. The mean STAI sum score increased significantly (3·5 points adjusted for the baseline scoring, age and gender, P < 0·001) from the first follow-up while in hospital to 1–3 months after discharge, with no significant change between the second and the last follow-up. This increase resulted primarily from a significant worsening of the score on ‘well-being’. The score on ‘nervousness’ remained unchanged. Age did not influence the scores, while females scored higher. No interaction effects were observed, indicating that the evolvement of nervousness and anxiety after discharge is independent of gender and age. Item analysis showed that the worsening of the score on ‘well-being’ in these patients during the first 1–3 months after discharge was primarily caused by a lower score on the item ‘I feel secure’.

Conclusion. The study does not support the hypothesis that a high level of nervousness and lack of well-being among hospitalized older patients results from acute illness and hospitalization. The worsening in the score on well-being after discharge of such patients is primarily caused by low levels of feelings of security. This represents a challenge to nurses providing home-based care.