US adults should get routine anxiety screening, panel says

US adults should get routine anxiety screening, panel says

US doctors should routinely screen all adults under the age of 65 for anxiety, an influential health guidelines group recommended Tuesday.

This is the first time the US Preventive Services Task Force has recommended screening for anxiety in primary care for asymptomatic adults. The proposal is open for public comments until October 17, but the group usually confirms its draft guidance.

The recommendations are based on a review that began before the COVID-19 pandemic, evaluating studies that showed the benefits and potential risks of screening. Given reports of a surge in mental health problems related to pandemic isolation and stress, the guidance is “very timely,” said Lori Pbert, a task force member and co-author. Medical school.

The task force said evidence of benefits, including effective treatments, outweigh any risks, including inaccurate screening results that could lead to unnecessary follow-up.

Related video: Study links depression, anxiety to prolonged COVID

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health complaints, affecting about 40% of US women at some point in their lives and more than 1 in 4 men, Pbert noted.

Black people, those living in poverty, people who have lost partners and people with other mental health problems are among adults who are at higher risks of developing anxiety, which can lead to panic attacks , phobia or feeling always on edge. Also, about 1 in 10 pregnant and postpartum women experience anxiety.

Common screening tools include short questionnaires about symptoms such as fear and anxiety that interfere with normal activities. These can be easily administered in a primary care setting, the task force said, although it did not specify how often patients should be screened.

“The most important thing is to recognize that a screening test alone is not sufficient to diagnose anxiety,” Pbert said. The next step is a more thorough evaluation by a mental health professional, although Pbert acknowledged that care can be difficult. finding mental health. shortage of specialists.

Megan Whalen, a 31-year-old marketing specialist who was diagnosed with anxiety in 2013, says regular doctors should screen for mental health issues as commonly as they do for physical problems.

“Health is health, whether the problem is visible or not,” said Whalen, of Hoboken, New Jersey.

She has received help from medicine and speech therapy, but her symptoms worsened during the pandemic and she moved back home temporarily.

“The pandemic made me afraid to leave home, the anxiety that told me nowhere outside of my childhood was safe,” Whelan said. , and I try to manage it as best I can.”

The task force said there is not enough strong research in older adults to recommend anxiety screening for people age 65 and older.

The group continues to recommend depression screening for adults and children, but said there is insufficient evidence to assess the potential benefits and harms of suicide screening among adults who show no symptoms worried

In April, the group released similar draft guidance for children and teens, recommending screening for anxiety but saying more research is needed on the potential benefits and harms of screening children for suicide no obvious signs.

Guidelines from the task force often determine insurance coverage, but many primary care doctors are already concerned. In 2020, a group affiliated with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended primary care anxiety screening for women and girls starting at age 13.

Melissa Lewis-Duarte, a fitness coach in Scottsdale, Arizona, says rhythmic breathing, meditation and a daily list of three things she’s grateful for have helped with her anxiety.

“Doctors say, ‘Make sure you sleep, control your stress.’ Yeah, I get that,” but not everyone knows how the 42-year-old mother of three put it. “It’s hard to prioritize self-care, but it’s essential.”


Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner.


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science is supported by the Department of Science Education of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all matters.

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