The association between anxiety disorders and hippocampal volume in older adults


The hippocampus, through its mediation of fear responses is thought to play a central role in the onset and maintenance of anxiety disorders. Prevalence of anxiety disorders remains high in older populations; however, little is known about their association with hippocampal changes in this age group. Due to differing levels of cortisol as adults age, age-related decreases in hippocampal volume, and the suggestion that age-related loss of neurogenesis results in anxiety disorders, this area requires investigation. We examined the association between hippocampal volume and anxiety disorders (social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder) in 534 older adults participating in the Enquête de Santé Psychologique–Risques, Incidence et Traitement (ESPRIT) study of late-life neuropsychiatric disorders. Anxiety disorders were diagnosed using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview MINI, French version 5.00. Cross-sectional analyses adjusted for age, educational level, gender, Mini-Mental State Examination scores, National Adult Reading Test scores, whole brain volume and depression found that a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder was positively associated with larger hippocampal volume. No other anxiety disorder was significantly associated with hippocampal volume. The present study is the first to examine the association between several anxiety disorders and hippocampal volume in an older population and the results highlight the need for further research relating to the relationship between hippocampal volume and anxiety disorders in older adults. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)