In a world first, researchers at the Centre for Emotional Health, Macquarie University are developing psychological treatments, which simultaneously target both anxiety and depression in older adults. Despite the fact that symptoms of anxiety and depression are typically suffered together, no program currently exists which is aimed at helping older adults tackle both disorders at once.
In this new study funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the team will compare two psychological treatment programs to determine the best method for addressing both anxiety and depression in older adults. One of the programs focuses on retraining the way people think and behave, and the other is targeted at improving mental stimulation, social interaction and support.
Previous trials found that those who are taught skills to manage anxiety and depression saw lasting improvements. “We found that older adults not only learn new ways of dealing with worry and low mood, but were also very keen to find ways to improve their lives”, said Dr Viviana Wuthrich, principal investigator for the Older Adult Treatment Study (OATS).
This trial is very timely given the world’s ageing population. By 2050, over a quarter of Australia’s population will be over the age of 65 and studies show 47% of older adults who met the criteria for depression also met the criteria for an anxiety disorder.
Dr Wuthrich reports “not only do these problems leave people feeling unhappy and isolated, but left untreated these disorders have severe consequences including increased risk of developing dementia, mortality and suicide.” She adds that “research into the wellbeing of older adults has been neglected, and we are trying to change that”.
The trial is currently seeking volunteers who suffer from anxiety and depression and who are over the age of 60. All volunteers will receive free psychological treatment for their anxiety and depression. For more information contact the Emotional Health Clinic at Macquarie University on 02 9850 8711.