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OBJECTIVE: To review the epidemiology, clinical characteristics, and treatment of anxiety disorders in late life. QUALITY OF EVIDENCE: Epidemiologic and comorbidity data are derived from well designed random-sample community surveys. There are virtually no controlled data specific to treatment of anxiety in the elderly. Guidelines for treating anxiety disorders in late life, therefore, must be extrapolated from results of randomized controlled trials conducted in younger patients. MAIN MESSAGE: Generalized anxiety disorder and agoraphobia account for most cases of anxiety disorder in late life. Late-onset generalized anxiety is usually associated with depressive illness and, in this situation, the primary pharmacologic treatment is antidepressant medication. Most elderly people with agoraphobia do not give a history of panic attacks; exposure therapy is the preferred treatment for agoraphobia without panic. CONCLUSIONS: Physicians need to make more use of antidepressant medication and behavioural therapy and less use of benzodiazepines in treating anxiety disorders in late life.