Reliable health

Will doctors start screening for anxiety during routine checkups?

All asymptomatic people ages 19-65 should be screened for anxiety as part of routine checkups from doctors, including those who are pregnant or postpartum, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended on Tuesday.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the recommendation said anxiety disorders are a common issue, often unrecognized by primary care providers in asymptomatic people, which can delay treatment.

NBC News said, “The guidance comes as emotional stress has skyrocketed in recent years, increasing demands on the limited number of counselors and therapists nationwide.”

NPR said, “Only about 10% of people started treatment within a year of their symptoms.”

Michael Silverstein, vice chair of the task force, told The Washington Post, “There are a lot of patients who come to primary care who may be experiencing symptoms but don’t bring them up,” because of stigma surrounding mental health.

Dr. Jeffrey Staab, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic, told NPR that the opioid epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic only worsened mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

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Previously, the task force recommended anxiety screenings for children and youths ages 8-18, the Post said, and suggested regular screenings targeting depression for all adults.

Typically, a screening for anxiety is done through a questionnaire in a primary care setting that may ask about recent moods including irritability, restlessness or feelings of uncontrollable worries, NBC News said.

“It’s about finding people and alleviating that burden earlier rather than waiting for them to come to their doctors with signs or symptoms,” Silverstein told the Post.


“We recognize that there can be limitations in terms of access to mental health providers within the health care system,” Dr. Wanda Nicholson, vice chair of the task force and a professor of prevention and community health at the George Washington Milken Institute of Public Health in Washington, D.C., told NBC News.

In order to implement the practice of regular anxiety screenings, the statement acknowledged that “adequate systems and clinical staff are needed to ensure that patients are screened with valid and reliable screening tools.”

Other factors that may be barriers to implementing this recommendation include inadequate medical systems unable to manage more patients and stigma associated with mental health, per the statement.

The task force didn’t find enough quality research to suggest anxiety screenings for those older than 65, NPR said.

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