A new study published by University of Toronto researchers shows that the prevalence of past-year generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) for adults aged 50 years and older with COPD is higher compared to older adults without the condition (5.8% vs 1.7%). The study was based upon a representative sample of 11,163 Canadians aged 50 and over drawn from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey. More than 700 of the adults reported being diagnosed by a health professional with COPD. The investigators reported that individuals with COPD had over three times the odds of GAD compared to those without.

Sleep problems, functional limitations, and chronic pain partially explained some of this excess risk for anxiety among those with COPD compared to those without, according to Medical Xpress. Professor Esme Fuller-Thomason, PhD, lead author of the study, says, “Even after accounting for 18 possible risk factors for GAD, individuals with COPD still had 70% higher odds of GAD compared to those without COPD.”

The study also investigated predictors of GADs specifically among older adults in the sample who had COPD. The key risk factors for this disorder included lack of social support and exposure to parental domestic violence during the adults’ childhood. Older adults who do not have a confidant available for important decisions had more than seven times the odds of having anxiety in comparison to those with a confidant. In addition, older adults with COPD exposed in childhood to parental domestic violence on more than 10 occasions had five times the odds of GADs compared to those not exposed.

“Our findings suggest that screening for anxiety may be particularly important for patients who lack a strong social network. Individuals with COPD may be prone to social isolation, particularly if they also experience functional limitations that impair mobility,” says Ashley Lacombe-Duncan, co-author of the study. “The chronic chaotic and violent home environment may have predisposed individuals to anxiety. Further research is needed to understand the pathways through which witnessing chronic parental domestic violence during the respondent’s childhood may increase the prevalence of anxiety disorders among older adults with COPD.”

Fuller-Thomson asserts that the study, “highlights how healthcare providers can play a significant role in identifying and providing promising interventions to reduce anxiety for individuals with COPD, in particular by screening for and addressing pain and functional limitations and targeting those most at risk.”

Source: Medical Xpress