Anxiety Recommendation

September 20, 2022

One More Question …

Doctors may soon screen for anxiety just like they routinely screen for cancer, obesity and heart disease.
What To Know. Why It Matters.

What To Know:

  • Who? For the first time, an independent advisory group of medical experts (this panel works with the U.S. gov’t and provides an annual report to Congress) recommended primary care doctors screen American adults (19-64) for anxiety.
  • Why? According to the panel, anxiety may be the underlying condition for other conditions (e.g. insomnia), so this could potentially help with a more accurate, earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Why It Matters:

  • About 1 out of 4 American men and nearly half of American women report anxiety in their lifetime.
  • Study: Anxiety disorders took a median of 23 years to diagnose.
  • While the recommendation is not final, suggestions by this group (the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) can change how medicine is practiced in America.
  • Why Now? “Covid has taken a tremendous toll on the mental health of Americans,” task force member Professor Lori Pbert, clinical psychologist.
“After 2020, it’s the rare patient who is not anxious … We have found that when it comes to mental health, if we don’t ask, often we don’t know.”

Dr. Mahmooda Qureshi, an internal medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital who says she believes the extra attention to anxiety matters. Dr. Pbert, a task force member, says she hopes this recommendation will heighten the need for greater mental health resources that may not be readily available to doctors or patients.

“Screening is great, but with a dire shortage in the workforce, it’s perplexing unless there are plans for increased funding of clinicians."

Dr. Eugene Beresin, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital. Some physicians raise questions about the efficacy of this screening (that may appear as a question on an intake form along other routine questions). Anxiety doesn’t have a uniform definition or treatment across practitioners. Others raise concerns about adding one more item to an already long list of screening recommendations.

Why not recommend anxiety screening for those over 64? The panel says symptoms of anxiety can also be signs of aging, like pain or fatigue. The researchers were not confident screening methods could make a distinction between both.

The task force will take public commentary until mid-October and then make final recommendations.

In a first, health panel calls for routine anxiety screening in adults (The Washington Post)

For the first time, US task force proposes recommendation to screen for anxiety in adults (CNN)

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: Opportunity for Public Comment

by Jenna Lee,