Treatment of generalized anxiety in older adults: A preliminary comparison of cognitive-behavioral and supportive approaches


Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in older adults has received little attention from researchers, despite evidence that anxiety disorders are a significant mental health problem in this population. This study compared the efficacy of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and nondirective, supportive psychotherapy (SP) for 48 older adults, ages 55 and up, with well-diagnosed GAD. Treatments were administered in small groups that met for 14 weekly 1 1/4 hour sessions. Treatment effects were assessed at posttreatment and over a 6- month follow-up period. Primary outcome variables targeted anxiety and worry, and transfer effects were assessed with measures of depression and associated fears. Two composite indexes of treatment response were derived to identify treatment responder status and high endstate functioning. Two participants declined participation prior to randomization; 15 others were classified as drop-outs. Results for the remaining 31 participants (CBT: n = 18; SP: n = 13) demonstrated significant improvements on primary outcome and transfer effect variables in both treatment conditions. Effect sizes generally were large, and treatment gains were maintained or improved over the 6-month follow-up phase. Examination of treatment responder status and endstate functioning revealed no significant differences between groups. The data support the potential efficacy of psychosocial group treatment for GAD in older adults, although limitations of the work and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Publication Title

Behavior Therapy