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Panic disorder in later life: results from a national survey of Canadians

  • Laurie M. Corna (a1), John Cairney (a1) (a2) (a3), Nathan Herrmann (a4), Scott Veldhuizen (a2), Laura McCabe (a4) and David Streiner (a5)...


Background: At present, our understanding of the risk markers associated with panic disorder among older, community dwelling older adults is limited. To address this gap, we examined the prevalence, risk markers, and comorbidity of panic disorder defined using DSM-IV criteria among older adults.

Method: Using data drawn from a large, nationally representative sample of Canadians, we estimated lifetime and 12-month prevalence of panic disorder, and examined demographic predictors and patterns of comorbidity of current panic disorder in adults aged 55 years and older (n = 12,792).

Results: The 12-month and lifetime prevalence estimates of panic disorder in this sample were 0.82% and 2.45% respectively, and one-fifth of these cases reported a first onset after the age of 55 years. In multivariate models, the risk of panic disorder decreased with older age and was significantly lower among widowed respondents. Physical limitations in daily activities as well as the presence of other psychiatric disorders (major depression, and social phobia) were also significantly associated with panic disorder in this sample.

Conclusions: Consistent with previous research on panic disorder, the prevalence of the disorder decreased with age among older adults. Potential explanations for the age effect and the clinical implications of the mental health comorbidities with panic disorder are discussed.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Laurie M. Corna, Health Systems Research and Consulting Unit, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 33 Russell St., Toronto, ON, M5S 2S1, Canada. Phone: +1 416 535 8501; Fax: +1 416 979 4703. Email:


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