Meta-analysis comparing different behavioral treatments for late-life anxiety

Steven R. Thorp, Catherine R. Ayers, Roberto Nuevo, Jill A. Stoddard, John T. Sorrell, Julie Loebach Wetherell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficacy of different types of behavioral treatments for geriatric anxiety (cognitive behavior therapy [CBT] alone, CBT with relaxation training [RT], and RT alone).

METHOD: The authors compared effect sizes from 19 trials. Analyses were based on uncontrolled outcomes (comparing posttreatment and pretreatment scores) and effects relative to control conditions on both anxiety and depressive symptoms.

RESULTS: Treatments for older adults with anxiety symptoms were, on average, more effective than active control conditions. Effect sizes were comparable to those reported elsewhere for CBT for anxiety in the general population or for pharmacotherapy in anxious older adults. CBT (alone or augmented with RT) does not seem to add anything beyond RT alone, although a direct comparison is challenging given differences in control conditions. Effects on depressive symptoms were smaller, with no differences among treatment types.

CONCLUSION: Results suggest that behavioral treatments are effective for older adults with anxiety disorders and symptoms. Results must be interpreted with caution given the limitations of the literature, including differing sample characteristics and control conditions across studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-115
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


  • anxiety
  • anxiety disorders
  • clinical trials as topic
  • cognitive therapy
  • depression
  • relaxation therapy
  • treatment outcome


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