Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Survey Finds Youth Diagnosed With Anxiety Rose From 2007 to 2012

More than 1 in 20 U.S. children had current anxiety or depression in 2011-2012, with the percentage of diagnoses of current anxiety, in particular, rising substantially from 2007 to 2012, according a report in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

“The high degree of comorbidity of anxiety and depression … and increasing prevalence of diagnosed anxiety collectively demonstrate the public health impact of these disorders,” wrote Rebecca Bitsko, Ph.D., of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and colleagues. “The integration of mental health and primary care may improve outcomes for children with anxiety and depression.”

Bitsko and colleagues analyzed data collected as part of the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) in 2003, 2007, and 2011-2012 to estimate the prevalence of anxiety or depression among youth aged 6 to 17 years. In 2003, parents were asked to report whether a health care provider had ever told them that their child had anxiety or depression. In 2007 and 2011-2012, anxiety and depression were asked about independently; if the parents answered yes, they were also asked if their child currently had depression or anxiety.

Among youth aged 6 to 17 years, the prevalence of ever being diagnosed with anxiety or depression increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2011-2012—a 56% increase in diagnosed prevalence from 2003 to 2011-2012. Similarly, the prevalence of current anxiety or depression increased from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.3% in 2011-2012—a 13% increase.

Looking separately at diagnoses for anxiety and for depression, it appears that much of the increase is attributable to increases in diagnoses for anxiety, the authors reported. Current diagnoses of anxiety increased 19% from 3.5% in 2007 to 4.1% in 2011-2012. Current diagnosed depression did not change significantly from 2007 to 2011-2012.

Bitsko and colleagues noted that despite the increase in diagnosed anxiety, the estimates reported in their study are lower than in community-based studies. Co-author John Walkup, M.D. (pictured above), said those study estimates suggest a prevalence of severe childhood anxiety of 8.3%, almost twice the percentage of current diagnosed anxiety reported in the NSCH data.

“In that context, it’s not surprising to see the rates of diagnosed anxiety rising,” Walkup told Psychiatric News. “If we are doing good advocacy for early identification and treatment of anxiety, we should close the gap between community samples and what you find here [in the study] in estimates of diagnosed anxiety and depression.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Childhood Anxiety Can Be Treated—the Challenge is to Recognize It.”