Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common disorder in older adults, with widespread and long-lasting consequences. In this study, we assessed the characteristics associated with lifetime GAD in community-dwelling adults according to their age at onset of the disorder. METHODS: Study sample was extracted from the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Well Being, a nationally representative cross-sectional survey that interviewed 8,841 Australians aged between 16 and 85 years using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Of the 3,178 participants aged 55-85 years, there were 227 (M = 63.7 years; 65% female) with a lifetime diagnosis of GAD who were the focus of our analyses. RESULTS: Age at onset was defined as early (<26 years) or late (≥ 26 years), based on the median age at onset for the entire sample. The weighted prevalence estimates for 12-month and lifetime GAD were 2.8% (95% CI: 2.0, 3.7) and 7.0% (95% CI: 5.7, 8.3), respectively, with less than one-tenth of the participants being diagnosed after the age of 60 years. Having the first GAD episode earlier in life was significantly associated with physical abuse during childhood (OR = 0.34, 95% CI: 0.16, 0.75), lifetime diagnosis of dysthymia (OR = 0.34, 95% CI: 0.18, 0.67), and number of GAD episodes (OR = 0.29, 95% CI: 0.14, 0.58), after adjusting for current age and 12-month GAD. CONCLUSION: In older adults, an earlier age at onset of GAD was associated with childhood physical abuse and worse clinical outcomes, thus appearing to be a marker for increased vulnerability to GAD.

Original publication




Journal article


Depress Anxiety

Publication Date





39 - 46


Adolescent, Adult, Age of Onset, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Anxiety Disorders, Australia, Child, Child Abuse, Comorbidity, Cross-Sectional Studies, Depressive Disorder, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Stress, Psychological