Most US adults under 65 should be screened for anxiety, expert panel recommends

The US Task Force released its draft recommendation on Tuesday

Amber Raiken
New York
Tuesday 20 September 2022 17:44 BST
Related: 7 Easy Ways to Reduce and Relieve Anxiety

The US Preventive Service Task Force has officially recommended that adults under the age of 65 should be screened for anxiety.

On Tuesday the USPSTF, an independent group of medical experts, revealed that its draft recommendation is now entering a public comment period before being officially finalised. The document will be open for comments until 17 October at 11:59 PM EDT.

Speaking to CNN about the draft, task force member Lori Pbert addressed the benefits of screening for anxiety at an early age.

“[The panel] found that screening for anxiety in adults younger than 65, and that includes those who are pregnant and postpartum ... can help identify anxiety early,” she said. “So it’s truly exciting.”

Pbert, who is a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, also said that the recommendation was made “because of its public health importance, especially with the increased focus on mental health in this country that we’ve been having for the past few years”.

However, the expert panel also noted, in its recommendation, that there are still some drawbacks when it comes to screening adults who are 65 and older for anxiety.

“The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for anxiety in older adults,” the company prefaced.

The task force went on to describe how anxiety disorders are often “characterized by greater duration or intensity of a stress response over everyday events”. Some forms of anxiety disorders can include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

The company also acknowledged how anxiety can be “characterized by periods of remission and recurrence,” although it “is often unrecognized in primary care settings”.

According to the US data collected by the panel from 2001 to 2002, 26.4 per cent of men and 40.4 per cent of women had a lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety is also between 8.5 to 10.5 per cent likely during pregnancy and 4.4 to 8.8 per cent during postpartum.

To CNN, Pbert went on to emphasis how anxiety disorders are a “very common mental health concern”.

“That is why it’s so important for us to be addressing anxiety disorders and screening for anxiety disorders,” she added.

The panel also released a draft recommendation for screening depression and suicide risk in adults who are older, pregnant, or postpartum persons.

Regarding how these screenings came together, Pbert said that the USPSTF really wants to “help primary care clinicians in addressing the urgent need to address mental health in adults in the United States”.

“So we’re really seeing this set of recommendations as an opportunity to be able to provide clinicians who are working with adult patients comprehensive guidance in terms of how to approach screening for anxiety, depression and suicide risk,” she added.

Pbert then prefaced how she and her team hope that the public’s comments will help them better understand adults’ need for mental healthscreening and treatments.

She also highlighted her concerns about mental health equity.

“Our hope is that by raising awareness of these issues and having recommendations for clinicians, that we’ll be able to help all adults in the United States, including those who experience disparities,” she explained.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detailed how the per cent of adults who received mental health treatment from 2019 to 2021 has greatly increased. In fact, the results of the medical site’s national health interview survey showed that one in four adults between the ages of 18 and 44 received treatment.

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