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Antidepressant Eases Anxiety in Older Adults
Date:1/20/2009

Other SSRIs would probably be equally effective, researchers report

TUESDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults with generalized anxiety disorder treated with the antidepressant Lexapro showed significant improvement in symptoms, a new study reports.

Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in older adults. Its symptoms include chronic worry and anxiety and other problems, such as muscle tension, sleep disturbance and fatigue.

"This was the first large-scale study of antidepressant medications as a treatment for anxiety disorders in older adults," said lead researcher Dr. Eric J. Lenze, an associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

As many as 7.3 percent of older people suffer from anxiety, and the percent is even higher among those receiving medical care, Lenze said. People with general anxiety can spend up to 40 hours a week consumed by worry, he added.

For many years, the treatment for anxiety in older adults has been either no treatment or such sedatives as Valium (diazepam) or Xanax (alprazolam), Lenze said. "There have been concerns about the safety of these medications in older adults," he added.

Lexapro (escitalopram) is in a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are thought to be safer, Lenze said. These drugs are approved for treating anxiety, he noted.

Although the researchers used Lexapro for this study, Lenze believes that other SSRIs would produce the same beneficial effect.

For the study, Lenze's team tested the effectiveness of Lexapro in 177 adults 60 and older suffering from general anxiety disorder. The participants were randomly assigned to Lexapro or a placebo for 12 weeks.

The result: 69 percent of people taking Lexapro saw reductions in their anxiety levels, compared with 51 percent of those taking a pla
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