Anxiety is a fear emotion that people experience when faced with a threatening or difficult situation. It generally abates when the body gets used to it, when the situation changes or when one moves away from the situation. It becomes a disorder (problem) when it is present in most situations, happens for no obvious reason and affects day-to-day ability. Unlike the previous belief that anxiety disorders decline with age, we now know that is more likely due to under-reporting by the older people.

Between 2 to 5 out of 10 older adults will have experienced anxiety problems sometime in life, 2 of 10 formally diagnosed with anxiety-related disorders. Anxiety disorders are twice as common as dementia and 4-6 times more common major depression.

Challenge of diagnosing Anxiety in older adults

Ageing brings higher prevalence of medical conditions, worry about health, use of prescribed medicines can cause agitation. Separating medical conditions from anxiety disorders is complicated so is diagnosing anxiety in dementia, fear may be exaggerated or memory impairment may be misinterpreted as anxiety symptom.