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Behavioral correlates of anxiety in well-functioning older adults

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 July 2014

Andrés Losada*
Department of Psychology, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain
María Márquez-González
Department of Biological and Health Psychology, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Nancy A. Pachana
School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Julie L. Wetherell
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, USA
Virginia Fernández-Fernández
Department of Psychology, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain
Celia Nogales-González
Department of Psychology, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain
Miguel Ruiz-Díaz
Department of Methodology and Social Psychology, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Correspondence should be addressed to: Andrés Losada Baltar. Facultad de Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Departamental II. Avda. de Atenas s/n 28922, Alcorcón, Spain. Phone: 34914888941. Email:



Research on the behavioral correlates of anxiety in older adults is sparse. The aim of this study was to explore the association of anxiety with behavioral patterns defined by health, activity, emotional and social variables.


A convenience sample of 395 older adults completed measures of health, activity, emotions, social variables and experiential avoidance. Cross-sectional data were analysed using cluster analysis.


Five clusters were identified: active healthy, healthy, active vulnerable, lonely inactive and frail lonely. Participants in the active healthy and healthy clusters showed the highest scores on health variables (vitality and physical function), and adaptive scores on the rest of variables. They also reported the lowest scores on anxiety and included the lowest number of cases with clinically significant anxiety levels. Active vulnerable showed high scores on social support, leisure activities and capitalization on them but low scores in vitality and physical functioning. Participants in the lonely inactive cluster reported the highest mean score in experiential avoidance and high scores on boredom and loneliness, and low scores on social support, leisure activities capitalizing on pleasant activities and health variables. Frail lonely represent a particularly vulnerable profile of participants, similar to that of lonely inactive, but with significantly lower scores on health variables and higher scores on boredom and hours watching TV.


Anxiety in older adults is not only linked to poor health, but also to dysfunctional social behavior, loneliness, boredom and experiential avoidance. Maladaptive profiles of older adults with regard to these variables have been identified.

Research Article
Copyright © International Psychogeriatric Association 2014 

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