Background: Anxiety in persons with dementia has received little attention despite its severe consequences. In this observational cross-sectional study, we investigated the frequency of anxiety and associations between anxiety and socio-demographic and clinical variables in an outpatient sample with first-time diagnosed mild dementia.
Methods: The study sample (n = 169) comprised participants recruited from clinics in geriatric medicine and old age psychiatry for a longitudinal dementia study. Symptoms of anxiety were rated by a caregiver on the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) and by the patient on the anxiety tension item on the Montgomery and Åsberg Depression Rating Scale. Measures of caregiver stress, dementia-related impairment (Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale), and cognitive functioning were also included.
Results: According to caregiver reports, 19.5% had clinically significant anxiety and an additional 22.5% had subclinical anxiety. Half of the patients reported experiencing anxiety from time to time. Patients with Lewy-body dementia reported anxiety more often compared to patients with Alzheimer's disease. Anxiety was associated with depression, higher caregiver stress, and more dementia-related impairment, but not with cognitive test performance. Caregiver stress and higher CDR score increased the odds for anxiety significantly, even when controlling for depression.
Conclusion: Anxiety is common in patients with mild dementia, and seems to be associated not so much with cognitive test performance than with caregiver distress and the patient's ability to function in daily life. Anxiety should be taken into account when assessing dementia, as well as screened for when examining patients with known dementia.