Treatment of anxiety disorders in older adults: A meta-analytic comparison of behavioral and pharmacological interventions

Martin Pinquart, Paul R. Duberstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To reduce the morbidity attributable to anxiety disorders in old age and to improve the quality of care, data on the effectiveness of current treatments are needed. METHODS: A comparative meta-analysis of 32 studies of treatments focused on anxiety disorders in older adults (N = 2,484) receiving behavioral interventions or pharmacotherapy was conducted. RESULTS: In separate analyses of the effects of interventions, stronger improvements of anxiety symptoms are found in pharmacotherapy than in behavioral interventions (d = 1.76 versus d = 0.81 SD units). This difference disappears when computing effect sizes that control for nonspecific change in the control group (d = 0.80 and d = 0.83 SD units) because effect sizes are greater in pill-placebo controls of pharmacological studies than in control groups (e.g., wait list) of behavioral interventions (d = 1.06 versus d = 0.10 SD units). Both interventions also yield moderate reductions in depressive symptoms (d = 0.59 versus d = 0.61 SD units), and dropout rates were comparable. CONCLUSIONS: Available pharmacotherapy and behavioral interventions are reasonably effective. Given the higher average treatment effects of pharmacological interventions, pharmacotherapy may be the first choice of treatment as long as medical conditions and patients' preferences do not preclude this form of treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-651
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Late-life anxiety
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Psychotherapy


Dive into the research topics of 'Treatment of anxiety disorders in older adults: A meta-analytic comparison of behavioral and pharmacological interventions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this