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Anxiety Disorder 3 Times More Likely Among Older Adults with COPD

older adults sitting lonely

Anxiety Disorder 3 Times More Likely Among Older Adults with COPD


Older adults are particularly at risk of many diseases. Living through the years, it's understandable that body parts begin to wear out and pick up problems on the way, especially when adequate care is not taken. However, it seems anxiety is on the list of such problems.

New research suggests that older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are over three times more likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder than those without.

In the research findings, older adults at least 50 years of age with COPD had a 5.8% risk of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). For older adults of the same age bracket, the risk is a mere 1.7%.

University of Toronto researchers published the study.


What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a wide term including several chronic lung diseases. Symptoms of such diseases usually include chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, and mobility issues, and these symptoms contribute to the increased risk of anxiety. COPD is the third leading cause of death by disease in the US.

The researchers state that even after accounting for the other risk factors of anxiety disorder in older adults, those with COPD still had a 70% higher likelihood of anxiety than those without the condition.

As mentioned, COPD can result in mobility issues. And people who can't move about tend to be isolated more. This generally is a precursor of anxiety and depression.

Co-author and doctoral student Ashley Lacombe-Duncan commented, "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."


The Research

The study involved 11,163 older adults from Canada aged 50 and above. Over 700 of them reported that they had been diagnosed with COPD.

The researchers didn't fail to investigate the risk factors linking COPD with anxiety disorder in older adults. Not surprisingly, they discovered that lack of social support was the leading cause in addition to exposure to parental domestic violence during childhood.

Older adults who had nobody to rely on and confide in were about seven times more likely to develop GAD than those who had a confidant.

In addition, older adults with COPD who had experienced parental domestic violence on over 10 occasions were five times more likely to develop GAD compared to other COPD patients who didn't go through a similar childhood experience.

Of course, this further shows how violence and chaotic childhoods can affect a person's mind long-term, predisposing them to mental disorders. Scientists would need to carry out more research to understand the chemistry behind the link between parental violence and adults with COPD and GAD.


Final Words

This research further highlights the need for healthcare providers to better look out for their patients with COPD. If they could address the pains and functional impairment that may cause social isolation among COPD patients, it can help to reduce their risks of developing anxiety.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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