Therapy provided over the phone lowered symptoms of anxiety and depression among older adults in rural areas with a lack of mental health services, a new study shows.
The option is important, one expert said, because seniors often have increased need for treatment as they cope with the effects of disease and the emotional tolls of aging and loss.
“Almost all older adults have one chronic medical condition, and most of these have been found to be significantly associated with anxiety disorder,” Eric Lenze, a psychiatrist and professor at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in an interview.
The study, by researchers at Wake Forest University and published this month in JAMA Psychiatry, examined 141 people over the age of 60 living in rural counties in North Carolina who were experiencing excessive and uncontrollable worry that is brought on by a condition called generalized anxiety disorder.
The participants had up to 11 phone sessions between January 2011 and October, 2013. Half of them received cognitive behavioral therapy, which focused on the recognition of anxiety symptoms, relaxation techniques, problem solving and other coping techniques. The other study participants got a less intensive phone therapy in which mental health professionals provided support for participants to discuss their feelings but offered no suggestions for coping.