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The Epidemiology of Anxiety Disorders: Prevalence and Societal Costs

Jean-Pierre Lépine, MD

Published: December 31, 2002

Article Abstract

Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent of psychiatric disorders, yet less than 30% of individualswho suffer from anxiety disorders seek treatment. Prevalence of anxiety disorders is difficult to pinpointsince even small changes in diagnostic criteria, interview tools, or study methodology affectresults. Analyses of the largest prevalence studies of psychiatric illnesses in the United States find thatanxiety disorders afflict 15.7 million people in the United States each year, and 30 million peoplein the United States at some point in their lives. Currently, the European Study of Epidemiology ofMental Disorders and the World Health Organization World Mental Health 2000 studies are underway.These studies, which share a similar methodology, will facilitate future worldwide comparisonsof the prevalence of anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders impose high individual and social burden,tend to be chronic, and can be as disabling as somatic disorders. Compared with those who have otherpsychiatric disorders, people with anxiety disorders are high care utilizers who present to generalpractitioners more frequently than to psychiatric professionals, placing a strain upon the health caresystem. The economic costs of anxiety disorders include psychiatric, nonpsychiatric, and emergencycare; hospitalization; prescription drugs; reduced productivity; absenteeism from work; and suicide.’ ‹’ ‹

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