Gait, balance, mobility and muscle strength in people with anxiety compared to healthy individuals

Ron Feldman, Shaul Schreiber, Chaim G. Pick, Ella Been

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders. Changes in psychomotor behavior can be observed in gross motor skills, with gait disturbances thought to reflect defective brain functions in psychiatric conditions. While balance deficits are well documented in anxiety, only little is known about gait characteristics of people with anxiety. Objective: This study wishes to examine the existence of differences in gait, balance, mobility and muscle strength between people with anxiety and healthy individuals, and to investigate the relationship between level of anxiety and motor characteristics. Methods: An observational study was conducted in a psychiatric out-patient unit at a large Israeli general hospital. The sample consisted of 93 participants, ages 18–65: 48 of them (27 female, 21 male) categorized as having anxiety, and 45 (25 female, 20 male) without anxiety. Participants were divided into two groups of various ages and both genders, and completed two questionnaires and four physical tests: objective anxiety assessment (Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale); spatiotemporal gait parameters (10-meter walking test); balance function (Unipedal Stance Test); muscle strength evaluation, and mobility (Time Up and Go Test). No attempt was made to correlate between the anxiety and control groups based on age and/or gender. Results: Participants with anxiety (both genders) were characterized by slower walking speed, shorter step length, and fewer steps per minute (p < 0.001), as well as balance deficiency and mobility dysfunction (p < 0.001), compared to the control group. Muscle strength in women with anxiety was found to be significantly lower than in healthy women. Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first of its kind to examine spatiotemporal gait components in patients with anxiety. Based on the findings, there is room to consider implementing gait analysis into the physical examination of patients with anxiety, as well as muscle strength, balance, and mobility function. Correct assessment and proper treatment of these aspects might contribute to the well-being of patients with anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102513
JournalHuman Movement Science
Volume67
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Keywords

  • Balance
  • Cadence
  • Gait velocity
  • Mental health
  • Mobility
  • Step length

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