Efficacy and effectiveness of psychological interventions on co-occurring mood and anxiety disorders in older adults

a systematic review and meta-analysis

Viviana M. Wuthrich*, Denise Meuldijk, Tess Jagiello, Alberto González Robles, Michael P. Jones, Pim Cuijpers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objectives: Co-occurring mood and anxiety disorders are common in older adult populations and are associated with worse long-term outcomes and poorer treatment response than either disorder alone. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to examine the efficacy and effectiveness of psychological interventions for treating co-occurring mood and anxiety disorders in older adults. Method: The study was registered (PROSPERO CRD4201603834), databases systematically searched (MEDLINE, PSYCINFO, PubMed and Cochrane Reviews) and articles screened according to PRISMA guidelines. Inclusion: Participants aged ≥60 years with clinically significant anxiety and depression, psychological intervention evaluated against control in randomised controlled trial, changes in both anxiety and depression reported at post-treatment. ResultsFour studies were included (total n = 255, mean age range 67–71 years). Overall, psychological interventions (cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness) resulted in significant benefits over control conditions (active, waitlist) for treating depression in the presence of co-occurring anxiety (Hedges' g = −0.44), and treating anxiety in the presence of depression (Hedges' g = −0.55). However, conclusions are limited; the meta-analysis was non-significant, few studies were included, several were low quality and there was high heterogeneity between studies. Benefits at follow-up were not established. Conclusion: Co-occurring anxiety and mood disorders can probably be treated simultaneously with psychological interventions in older adults with moderate effect sizes, however, more research is needed. Given comorbidity is common and associated with worse clinical outcomes, more high-quality clinical trials are needed that target the treatment of co-occurring anxiety and mood disorders, and report changes in diagnostic remission for both anxiety and mood disorders independently.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Dec 2020


  • anxiety
  • comorbidity
  • depression
  • geriatric
  • meta-analysis
  • psychological therapy
  • systematic review

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