Background. Previous studies suggest that worry content and prevalence may vary as a function of age, but evidence is limited.
Method. Cross-sectional national survey of 8580 householders in Great Britain aged between 16 and 74 years. This analysis examined the relationship between age, worry content (relationships/family, financial/housing, work, health, miscellaneous), common mental disorders, and functional limitation, adjusting for other sociodemographic factors.
Results. Overall, the prevalence of worries declined with age. However, with the exception of worry about relationships, the strength of associations between worry types and mental disorder either remained constant or increased in the older age groups. Compared to the 16–24 years reference group, worries about relationships/family, finances/housing and work were lower in the 55–74 years age groups. Financial/housing worries were increased in the 25–44 years group, and health worries were increased in the 25–64 years groups. There were independent associations between all worry items and the categories of mental disorder. All worry types apart from miscellaneous worries were independently associated, positively or negatively, with functional limitation.
Conclusions. Worry content in the general population varies as a function of age, gender, marital status, and educational attainment. All categories of worry are more prevalent in individuals with common mental disorders. The lower prevalence of worries and their stronger association with mental disorder in old age emphasize the clinical significance of these symptoms in this age group.