BACKGROUND: The Geriatric Anxiety Scale (GAS; Segal et al. (Segal, D. L., June, A., Payne, M., Coolidge, F. L. and Yochim, B. (2010). Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 24, 709-714. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2010.05.002) is a self-report measure of anxiety that was designed to address unique issues associated with anxiety assessment in older adults. This study is the first to use item response theory (IRT) to examine the psychometric properties of a measure of anxiety in older adults.
METHOD: A large sample of older adults (n = 581; mean age = 72.32 years, SD = 7.64 years, range = 60 to 96 years; 64% women; 88% European American) completed the GAS. IRT properties were examined. The presence of differential item functioning (DIF) or measurement bias by age and sex was assessed, and a ten-item short form of the GAS (called the GAS-10) was created.
RESULTS: All GAS items had discrimination parameters of 1.07 or greater. Items from the somatic subscale tended to have lower discrimination parameters than items on the cognitive or affective subscales. Two items were flagged for DIF, but the impact of the DIF was negligible. Women scored significantly higher than men on the GAS and its subscales. Participants in the young-old group (60 to 79 years old) scored significantly higher on the cognitive subscale than participants in the old-old group (80 years old and older).
CONCLUSIONS: Results from the IRT analyses indicated that the GAS and GAS-10 have strong psychometric properties among older adults. We conclude by discussing implications and future research directions.