Objective: The prevalence of mental disorders in the elderly is disputed. The debate in this area can be informed by data from large population surveys that contain sufficient elderly participants. The aim of the present paper was to provide the first direct comparison of the prevalence and demographic correlates of ICD-10 anxiety and affective disorders in the middle-aged and the elderly. Method: The 12 month prevalence and demographic correlates of affective and anxiety disorders were compared in a community sample of middle-aged and elderly Australian residents who took part in the Australian National Mental Health and Well-being Survey (NMHWS). Results: One in seven middle-aged participants and one in 16 elderly participants experienced symptoms consistent with any anxiety or affective disorder in the preceding 12 months. Compared to the middle-aged participants, the elderly had lower rates for most affective and anxiety disorders, and for the combined presence of any disorder. Demographic correlates of mental disorder, especially marital status, were different for the two groups. Conclusions: Community-dwelling elderly in Australia have lower rates of mental disorder compared to the middle-aged. Differences in demographic correlates between groups support the notion that the determinants of mental disorder in the elderly differ substantially from those in middle age.
- Mental disorder