Background: Very little is known about the prevalence and correlates of anxiety among nursing home patients. The current knowledge is predominantly based on information from population-based studies among elderly. Methods: Prevalence of anxiety was measured with the Schedules for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry (SCAN) in a sample of 333 nursing home patients of somatic wards of 14 nursing homes in the Netherlands. Participants were over 55 years, had a MMSE-score > 14 and were able to communicate sufficiently. Information about demographic, health-related, psychosocial and care-related characteristics was collected in interviews with participants and from attending physicians and nursing home staff. Results: The prevalence of anxiety disorders was 5.7%, of subthreshold anxiety disorders 4.2% and of anxiety symptoms 29.7%. Only health-related characteristics (MMSE-score > 23, depression, stroke) were significantly associated with anxiety disorders and subthreshold anxiety disorders. Demographic (> 6 years education), health-related (depression, impaired vision, pain) and psychosocial characteristics (a recent negative life event) were significantly associated with anxiety symptoms. No care-related characteristics were associated with anxiety. Limitations: The study population is a selective one (> 55 years, MMSE > 15, able to communicate sufficiently). The data were collected cross-sectionally. Conclusions: Anxiety disorders and anxiety symptoms occur frequently among nursing home patients and are mainly associated with health-related characteristics. Physicians should focus special attention on patients with depression or stroke. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.