Symptoms of anxiety can often first appear in the later years of life. “Twelve-month prevalence of anxiety disorders in late life has been estimated at 7%; however, a far greater number experience impairing anxiety symptoms, with estimates ranging from 15– 45%,” said Jan Mohlman of Rutgers University, and lead author of a new study identifying which type of anxiety treatment older adults prefer. “First, and contrary to the widespread assumption that older adults prefer pharmacological interventions, psychotherapies (cognitive and behavioral therapies in particular) are more acceptable, credible, and appealing to older patients than pharmacological treatment for depression.” Additionally, she found that older adults prefer to receive treatment in settings that are familiar, such as their primary care offices, rather than community mental health settings. Mohlman said, “Most primary care settings do not offer psychotherapy as part of the services available to the elderly, giving rise to a mismatch between preferred modality and setting.”
For her study, Mohlman interviewed 14 adults between the ages of 69 and 91, none of whom had symptoms of anxiety. They were asked to imagine they had anxiety severe enough to interfere with their daily lives so that they had been referred for treatment. They were then instructed to choose the type of treatment they would prefer, and the setting in which to receive it. “The community sample overwhelmingly preferred psychotherapy to pharmacotherapy, which replicates findings obtained from primary care samples and younger adults,” said Mohlman. “This preference for psychotherapy was apparent across age group cohorts, which is a new finding.” She added, “Perhaps the most important message found here is that mental health professionals must increase efforts to disseminate information on psychotherapy (e.g., where to obtain it, the various ways in which it can be administered) in more innovative ways, given that older adults are likely to have particular preferences when presented with a range of available options.”
Mohlman, J. (2011, April 4). A Community Based Survey of Older Adults’ Preferences for Treatment of Anxiety. Psychology and Aging. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0023126
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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