Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Mood Disorders in Parents May Increase Risk of Anxiety Disorders in Offspring

Children who have a parent with a mood disorder appear to be at an elevated risk of a several anxiety disorders, suggests a report in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The findings, which were based on a meta-analysis of 35 studies, suggest that children may be particularly at risk for panic disorder.

“Although we know that there is an overall increased risk for anxiety disorder in general among offspring of parents with mood disorders, little is understood about the risks of specific anxiety disorders and whether the risks differ between parental mood disorder subtypes,” wrote lead author En-Nien Tu, M.D., of the University of Oxford and colleagues.

To begin to answer these risks, Tu and colleagues sought out peer-reviewed studies that examined the risk of anxiety in the offspring of parents with mood disorders (at-risk group) and the offspring of parents who did not have these conditions (control group). The researchers identified 35 studies that fit their criteria that were published between 1994 and January 2023. Of these, 13 were cross-sectional studies, three were baseline data from cohort studies, and 19 were cohort follow-up studies. The majority of the studies included children under the age of 19 and most of the study participants were White and from high-income Western countries, the authors noted.

Anxiety disorders in the analysis included seasonal affective disorder (SAD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social phobia, specific phobia, panic disorder, and agoraphobia.

Overall, 36.0% of children in the at-risk group experienced anxiety disorders during their lifetime, compared with 20.4% in the control group. Lifetime rates of anxiety disorders between the at-risk group vs. the control group were 20.4% vs. 10.0% for SAD, 14.5% vs. 7.16% for GAD, 15.6% vs 9.32% for social phobia, 20.2% vs. 12.1% for specific phobia, and 5.96% vs. 1.58% for panic disorder, and 4.17% vs. 4.40% for agoraphobia.

Compared with the control group, those who had parents with mood disorders were at 1.82 times higher risk of any anxiety disorder, except for agoraphobia; they also had more than a 3-fold greater risk of panic disorder compared with children who did not have a parent with a mood disorder.

When Tu and colleagues compared the offspring of parents with bipolar disorder with those of parents with unipolar depression, they found no significant difference between the risks of anxiety disorders across the offspring of parents with bipolar disorder versus unipolar depression.

The findings point to the importance of proactive prevention, early identification, and treatment strategies to reduce the risk of anxiety disorders in children of parents with mood disorders, the researchers noted. “An understanding of the mechanism underlying the increased rates of anxiety disorders in the offspring of parents with mood disorders may help identify important targets for intervention,” they wrote.

For related information, see the Psychiatric News AlertOne-Third of Teens Have Parent With Anxiety or Depression, Survey Suggests” and the Psychiatric News article “Childhood Anxiety Can Be Treated, the Challenge is to Recognize It.”

(Image: iStock/fizkes)

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