Medical Panel Advises Anxiety Screening For All Under The Age Of 65

Photo by Olivier Collet on Unsplash

A medical panel full of experts recommended on Tuesday that all physicians screen adults younger than 65 be screened for anxiety.

The medical advisory group called the United States preventive services task Force said the guidance was intended to help prevent mental health disorders from going undetected for years and even sometimes decades. The same panel also made a similar recommendation for young children and teenagers earlier this year.

The panel, appointed by an arm of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, has been preparing the guidance since before the pandemic. The recommendations come at a time of “critical need,” said Lori Pbert, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, who serves on the task force. Americans have been reporting outsize anxiety levels in response to a confluence of stressors, including inflation and crime rates, fear of illness, and loss of loved ones from Covid-19.

From August 2020 to February 2021, the percentage of Americans with anxiety or depressive symptoms increased from 36.4% to 41.5 percent according to a new study the medical panel cited.

The guidance was issued in draft form. The panel will finalize it in the coming months after reviewing public comments. While the panel’s recommendations are not compulsory, they heavily influence the standard of care among primary care physicians across the country. In response to the recommendations, mental health care providers emphasized that screening programs are useful only if they lead patients to effective solutions.

Rising mental health issues are not unique to the United States. Anxiety and depression increased by 25 percent globally during the first year of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization, and have only partially improved since.

According to outdated data, a quarter of all men and 40% of women experience anxiety or depressive time in their lifetime. The panel suggests that women have now nearly doubled the risk of depression of men.

Some primary care physicians expressed concern that adding an additional responsibility to their wide-ranging checklist for brief patient appointments is implausible.

The task force panel did not extend its screening recommendations to patients 65 and older. It said there was no clear evidence regarding the effectiveness of screening tools in older adults because anxiety symptoms are similar to normal signs of aging, such as fatigue and generalized pain.

The task force will accept public comments on the draft recommendation through October 17.

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Every week hosts of BBP News Podcast Chris Baker and Nick Rodd write about all current events from politics, technology, business and sports news.