Differentiating symptoms of anxiety and depression in older adults: Distinct cognitive and affective profiles?


Cognitive and affective dimensions of symptoms of anxiety and depression were examined in a sample of 283 community-dwelling older adults (ranging in age from 65 to 93 years). A principal-axis factor analysis with varimax rotation conducted on the Cognition Checklist (CCL) revealed a factor structure different than that found in younger adults. Three factors emerged (Anxious, Social Loss, and Negative Self-Evaluation/Worthlessness Cognitions) and, in general, these cognitions were not specifically related to anxious and depressive symptoms. Instead, worthlessness cognitions were robustly associated with both anxious and depressive symptoms, including variance that was unique to each. In terms of affective dimensions, factor analyses revealed that only anxiety-related items loaded on the negative affectivity subscale. Consequently, negative affectivity was strongly related to variance that was unique to anxious symptoms, but was only weakly related to variance that was unique to depressive symptoms. On the other hand, positive affectivity was only weakly associated with both forms of symptomatology. Findings are discussed in terms of the cognitive and affective distinctions between older and younger adulthood.

Publication Title

Cognitive Therapy and Research