Background: Whereas the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-Y) is probably the most widely used self-reported measure of anxiety, the lack of current norms among elderly people appears to be problematic in both a clinical and research context. The objective of the present study was to provide normative data for the STAI-Y trait scale from a large elderly cohort and to identify the main sociodemographic and health-related determinants of trait anxiety.
Methods: The STAI-Y trait scale was completed by 7,538 community-dwelling participants aged 65 years and over from the “Three City” epidemiological study. Trained nurses and psychologists collected information during a face-to-face interview including sociodemographic characteristics and clinical variables.
Results: The scale was found to have good internal consistency (Cronbach's α = 0.89). Norms were stratified for gender and educational level differentiating persons with and without depressive symptoms. Multivariate linear regression found the STAI-Y trait score to be significantly associated with female gender, psychotropic medication use, higher depressive symptoms, higher cognitive complaints, and with an interaction between subjective health and marital status. Age was not associated with the total score.
Conclusion: This study provides norms for the STAI-Y trait scale in the general elderly population which are of potential use in both a clinical and research context. The present results confirm the importance of several factors previously associated with higher trait anxiety in the elderly. However, more research is needed to better understand the clinical specificities of anxiety in the elderly and the improvement of assessment.