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Anxiety is debilitating and associated with numerous mental and physical comorbidities. There is a need to identify and investigate low-risk prevention and treatment strategies. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between different volumes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (PA) and anxiety symptoms and status among older adults in Ireland.
Participants (n = 4175; 56.8% female) aged ⩾50 years completed the International PA Questionnaire (IPAQ) at baseline, and the anxiety subscale of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale at baseline and follow-up (2009–2013). Participants were classified according to meeting World Health Organisation PA guidelines, and divided into IPAQ categories. Respondents without anxiety at baseline (n = 3165) were included in prospective analyses. Data were analysed in 2017.
Anxiety symptoms were significantly higher among females than males (p < 0.001). Models were adjusted for age, sex, waist circumference, social class, smoking status and pain. In cross-sectional analyses, meeting PA guidelines was associated with 9.3% (OR = 0.91, 95% confidence interval 0.78–1.06) lower odds of anxiety. Compared with the inactive group, the minimally- and very-active groups were associated with 8.4% (OR = 0.92, 0.76–1.10) and 18.8% (OR = 0.81, 0.67–0.98) lower odds of anxiety, respectively. In prospective analyses, meeting guidelines was associated with 6.3% (OR = 0.94, 0.63–1.40) reduced odds of anxiety. Compared with the inactive group, the minimally and very-active groups were associated with 43.5% (OR = 1.44, 0.89–2.32) increased, and 4.3% (OR = 0.96, 0.56–1.63) reduced odds of anxiety. The presence of pain, included in models as a covariate, was associated with a 108.7% (OR = 2.09, 1.80–2.42) increase in odds of prevalent anxiety, and a 109.7% (OR = 2.10, 1.41–3.11) increase in odds of incident anxiety.
High volumes of PA are cross-sectionally associated with lower anxiety symptoms and status, with a potential dose–response apparent. However, significant associations were not observed in prospective analyses. The low absolute number of incident anxiety cases (n = 109) potentially influenced these findings. Further, as older adults may tend to experience and/or report more somatic anxiety symptoms, and the HADS focuses primarily on cognitive symptoms, it is plausible that the HADS was not an optimal measure of anxiety symptoms in the current population.
The World Mental Health Survey Initiative (WMHSI) has advanced our understanding of mental disorders by providing data suitable for analysis across many countries. However, these data have not yet been fully explored from a cross-national lifespan perspective. In particular, there is a shortage of research on the relationship between mood and anxiety disorders and age across countries. In this study we used multigroup methods to model the distribution of 12-month DSM-IV/CIDI mood and anxiety disorders across the adult lifespan in relation to determinants of mental health in 10 European Union (EU) countries.
Logistic regression was used to model the odds of any mood or any anxiety disorder as a function of age, gender, marital status, urbanicity and employment using a multigroup approach (n = 35500). This allowed for the testing of specific lifespan hypotheses across participating countries.
No simple geographical pattern exists with which to describe the relationship between 12-month prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders and age. Of the adults sampled, very few aged ⩾80 years met DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for these disorders. The associations between these disorders and key sociodemographic variables were relatively homogeneous across countries after adjusting for age.
Further research is required to confirm that there are indeed stages in the lifespan where the reported prevalence of mental disorders is low, such as among younger adults in the East and older adults in the West. This project illustrates the difficulties in conducting research among different age groups simultaneously.