Just 10% of Anxiety Treatment Considered Adequate

January 31, 2018
Man with anxiety

Little more than one-quarter of people with an anxiety disorder worldwide receive any treatment for the condition—and that treatment is adequate only 10% of the time, according to a study published online in Depression and Anxiety.

The findings communicate a need for better recognition of anxiety disorders and quality treatment, researchers wrote.

“It is estimated that anxiety disorders affect 10% of the global population. These are pathologies that tend to be chronic, comorbid, and associated with a significant disability,” said lead author Jordi Alonso, MD, PhD, of the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute, Barcelona, Spain. “It is clear that this is an important public health problem.”

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To gauge the adequacy of anxiety disorder treatment worldwide, researchers used data from 23 community surveys in 21 countries. The surveys assessed for DSM-IV anxiety disorders, which included posttraumatic stress disorder, and asked about treatment received over the past 12 months for “problems with emotions, nerves, mental health, or use of alcohol or drugs.” Participants were also asked whether they felt a need for professional treatment.

Among 51,547 respondents, 9.8% had a DSM-IV anxiety disorder, researchers reported. Just 27.6% of them received treatment, and only 9.8% of that group received treatment considered adequate for their disorder.

“Adequate treatment for an anxiety disorder that has been evolving over a 12-month period is considered to be either pharmacological treatment involving at least 4 visits to the doctor or psychotherapeutic treatment including at least 8 visits,” explained Victor Pérez, MD, of the Hospital del Mar Institute of Psychiatry and Addiction. “Suitable treatment for this pathology would prevent the disorder becoming chronic and reduce the chances of comorbidity with other physical or mental illnesses, such as depression.”

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Among respondents with anxiety disorders, just 41.3% felt a need for treatment, the study found. In addition, lower-income countries had lower treatment rates.

“Health literacy and awareness should be promoted in those countries where the need is not recognized, usually middle and/or low income countries, and the variability associated with the level of income and revenues of a country should also be reduced,” said Dr. Alonso. “It is important to encourage health care providers to follow clinical guidelines to improve treatment quality when it comes to anxiety disorders.”

—Jolynn Tumolo


Alonso J, Liu Z, Evans-Lacko S, et al. Treatment gap for anxiety disorders is global: results of the World Mental Health Surveys in 21 countries. Depression and Anxiety. 2018 January 22;[Epub ahead of print].

An international study shows that only 1 in 10 patients with anxiety disorders receives the right treatment [press release]. Barcelona, Spain: Hospital Del Mar Medical Research Institute; January 23, 2018.