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Cognitive Behavior Therapy Reduces Anxiety in Older Adults

A new study of older adults with generalized anxiety disorder finds that those who received cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) had greater improvement on measures of worry, depression and mental health than patients who received usual care.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is common in late life, with prevalence up to 7.3 percent in the community and 11.2 percent in primary care. Late-life anxiety predicts increased physical disability, memory difficulties and decreased quality of life, according to background information in the article.

Late-life anxiety is usually treated with medication, but associated risks (e.g., falls, hip fractures, memory problems) with some drugs and patient fears of adverse effects limit their usefulness.

Two previous studies suggested benefits of CBT in primary care for late-life GAD, but the studies were small and the conclusions were limited. Older adults most often seek treatment for GAD in primary care.

Melinda A. Stanley, Ph.D, of the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, and colleagues conducted the first randomized clinical trial of CBT for late-life GAD in primary care to examine whether CBT would improve outcomes relative to enhanced usual care (EUC).

The trial included 134 older adults (average age, 67 years) in two primary care settings, with treatment provided for 3 months. Assessments were conducted at the beginning of the trial, post-treatment (3 months), and over 12 months of followup, with assessments at 6, 9, 12 and 15 months.

Patients were randomized to either CBT (n = 70), which included education and awareness, relaxation training, cognitive therapy, problem-solving skills training and behavioral sleep management; or EUC (n = 64), in which patients were telephoned biweekly during the first 3 months of the study by the same therapists to provide support and ensure patient safety. Therapists reminded patients to call project staff if symptoms worsened.

Levels of anxiety, worry, depression and physical and mental health quality of life were measured via various tests or surveys. The researchers found that CBT, compared with EUC, significantly improved worry severity, depressive symptoms and general mental health. In intention-to-treat analyses, response rates defined according to worry severity were higher following CBT compared with EUC at 3 months (40.0 percent vs. 21.9 percent).

“This study is the first to suggest that CBT can be useful for managing worry and associated symptoms among older patients in primary care,” the authors write.

“This study paves the way for future research to test sustainable models of care in more demographically heterogeneous groups.”

The report is found in the April 8 issue of JAMA.

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Reduces Anxiety in Older Adults

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Cognitive Behavior Therapy Reduces Anxiety in Older Adults. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/04/08/cognitive-behavior-therapy-reduces-anxiety-in-older-adults/5219.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.