Chinese senior woman looking outside

A new study has linked a range of anxiety disorders in seniors to declines in cognitive function.

Physician-researchers from Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands followed outcomes in more than 7,000 community-dwelling adults aged 45 to 75 years old, some of whom had type 2 diabetes. They measured generalized anxiety symptoms, panic disorder with and without agoraphobia (fear of crowds and leaving one’s home), and lifetime panic disorder. 

Participants were tested across multiple cognitive domains, including executive functioning, memory and processing speed. Cognitive impairment was also assessed. Results were controlled for age, sex and type 2 diabetes.

They found that agoraphobia was associated with worse functioning in all cognitive domains measured, and most strongly associated with higher odds of cognitive impairment and worsened scores on executive functioning. Clinical anxiety symptoms appeared to negatively impact scores on processing speed, and panic disorder was linked with worsening memory scores. Adjusting the results for depressive disorder did not significantly change the outcomes.

The associations between anxiety disorders and poor cognitive health appeared to be stronger in young midlife and in participants with type 2 diabetes, the authors noted. There were no significant links between lifetime panic disorder and cognitive scores or odds of cognitive impairment. 

Full findings were published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

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This article originally appeared on McKnight's Long-Term Care News