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The nature of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and worry across the lifespan remains incompletely understood. We investigated genetic and environmental influences on GAD and the proportion of genetic and environmental variation in GAD that is shared with neuroticism in older adult twins. Participants included 1618 monozygotic and 2291 same-sexed dizygotic twin pairs from the Swedish Twin Registry aged 55 to 74. Participants provided personality information in 1973 and also participated in a telephone screening between 1998 and 2002 that included an assessment for lifetime GAD. Univariate biometric models indicated that both GAD and neuroticism were moderately heritable (.27 and .47, respectively), while the balance of variation reflected environmental factors unique to the individual. Bivariate analyses indicated that approximately one third of the genetic influences on GAD were in common with genetic influences on neuroticism, while individual specific environmental influences were virtually unshared between GAD and neuroticism. Analyses of sex effects suggested that men and women differed in the frequency of lifetime GAD and level of neuroticism; however, no sex differences for genetic and environmental influences for either trait were identified.
Background: Both anxiety disorders and subclinical anxiety symptoms are related to poorer health and functioning in later life. Because worry is an important component of anxiety, the accurate measurement of worry is crucial to studying the etiology, prevention and treatment of anxiety disorders. Assessment of the trait worry has emerged as the most widely used strategy to establish the presence and extent of pathological worry. However, the Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ), the most widely used measure of the trait worry, has not been validated cross-culturally in groups outside of the U.S.A.
Methods: We tested the psychometric properties and measurement invariance of an 8 item abbreviated version of the PSWQ (PSWQ-A) in American (N = 206) and Spanish (N = 137) older adult samples.
Results: Internal consistency was high and analyses supported a unidimensional solution in both samples. Measurement invariance was tested using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and Rasch models. Results of the CFA suggest that measurement invariance between the samples can be assumed for women but not for men. Rasch modeling results by gender suggested that three items have different endorsability levels in the two samples, suggesting that certain items may more closely represent the construct of the trait worry in American and Spanish older adults.
Conclusions: Overall, the PSWQ-A appears appropriate for cross-cultural use, although deletion of one item (item 6) may improve the psychometric properties of the scale across different populations.
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