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Late Life Anxiety

Late Life Anxiety - What it is

​Anxiety is common especially in the elderly population. Anxiety can be characterized by the feelings of tension and worrisome thoughts. Anxiety is a normal process in life. However, anxiety becomes a disorder when it becomes excessive and persistent, causing significant personal distress and affecting a person’s daily function. Anxiety disorder is a common condition but unfortunately, is under-recognized. It is vital to identify and treat anxiety as early as possible as untreated anxiety increases morbidity and mortality. Individuals with anxiety disorder are at greater risk for heart disease, stroke and depression.

The estimated prevalence rates of late-life anxiety disorder ranges from 1.5% to 15%. The common types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social phobia and specific phobia.

Late-life anxiety disorders are significantly associated with comorbid major depression. The course of illness tends to be chronic with fluctuation in the severity of symptoms.

Late Life Anxiety - Symptoms

Anxiety can present in both physical and emotional symptoms. People may not be aware that physical symptoms are linked to anxiety.

1. Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:
  • excessive and irrational worrying, even when there are no signs of trouble
  • inability to relax
  • hard time concentrating, “mind going blank”
  • feeling tense or jumpy
  • irritable or restlessness
  • problems sleeping 

2. Physical symptoms may include:

  • headaches
  • fatigue 
  • trembling
  • racing heart
  • sweating
  • numbness/tingling sensation
  • muscle tension
  • light-headedness
  • shortness of breath
  • gastrointestinal discomfort (eg: diarrhea, nausea, heartburn)

Late Life Anxiety - How to prevent?

  1. ​Eating well-balanced diet. Consider including multivitamin supplements.
  2. Limit alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as coffee, teas or sodas
  3. Getting adequate rest/sleep.
  4. Trim a hectic schedule to its most essential items, try to limit activities that you don’t find relaxing.
  5. Keep track of events or things that make you more anxious or less anxious. 
  6. Take time out for yourself everyday. Even a 20 minutes of relaxation can decrease your anxiety level. 
  7. Healthy and active lifestyle. Exercise regularly.
Take a simple screening test for anxiety symptoms on the healthbuddy app senior wellness module (Specialty Care ( and learn some strategies to cope with early symptoms.

Treatment is available for anxiety disorders. The two main form of treatment include medication and talking therapy. So, talk to your doctor about your concerns and seek help.

Late Life Anxiety - Causes and Risk Factors

The risk factor of late-life anxiety is a complex combination of both biological and environmental factors.

1. Biological risk factors
  • Women are twice as likely as men to hvae risk factors. 
  • A family history of mental illness (anxiety/mood disorders) predisposes one to develop anxiety/mood disorders.
  • People with chronic physical illnesses have a greater risk of developing anxiety disorder. For example, excessive fear of falling leads to an individual's avoiding activities that they remain capable of performing.

2. Environmental risk factors
  • Loneliness or lack of social support is one the main environmental factors. 
  • Another factor is ow socioeconomic status or recent stressful life events such as loss of loved ones
  • Having to care for sick family member also increase the risk of developing anxiety. 
  • In the current climate, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic predisposes one to mental illnesses. 

Late Life Anxiety - Diagnosis

Late Life Anxiety - Treatments

​Two main form of treatments for anxiety disorders are medication and talking therapy. Should you have any concerns, you can consult your doctor.

Late Life Anxiety - Preparing for surgery

Late Life Anxiety - Post-surgery care

Late Life Anxiety - Other Information

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth

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