Objective: To examine the age-related worry patterns in a population-based sample of self-reported worriers.
Methods: The National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being is a multistage stratified epidemiologic survey of mental health conducted in Australia in 2007. Participants were surveyed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. All participants who reported a period of pervasive worry were included in this study (N = 3735, 16–85 years of age, 61% female).
Results: Compared with younger adults (16–29 years of age; N = 860), older adults (65–85 years of age; N = 639) reported fewer worries [odds ratio (OR) = 0.36, p < 0.01] and a lower likelihood of worrying about interpersonal relations (OR = 0.66, p < 0.01), health (OR = 0.65, p < 0.05), work (OR = 0.39, p < 0.01), and miscellaneous topics (OR = 0.57, p < 0.01), but a higher likelihood of worrying about the health and welfare of loved ones (OR = 2.46, p < 0.01) after adjusting for socio-demographic and clinical factors. Similar patterns were seen in older persons with and without a lifetime history of generalized anxiety disorder as diagnosed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Conclusions: The findings indicated an overall decrease in worry count with advancing age, as well as a developmental distribution of worry content, and a quantitative but not qualitative distinction between normal and pathological worriers. Overall, these findings might contribute to the understanding of worry processes and the phenomenology of generalized anxiety disorder in older cohorts.