How to stem anxiety and depression? The idea of ​​the United States

How to stem anxiety and depression? The idea of ​​the United States

The United States recommends screening for anxiety and depression, but the rise in mental health problems isn't just in the United States. Here is how they will act and the data confirming the urgency to intervene

In the United States, from August 2020 to February 2021, the percentage of adults who presented symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder rose from 36.4% to 41.5%.

This is confirmed by a study cited by the US Preventive Services Task Force, a committee of experts of the US Ministry of Health, which two days ago made an unprecedented recommendation in which it suggests "to screen all adults for depression, anxiety and panic. under 65 ".

The document has been published in draft form and will be finalized in the coming months after experts have reviewed public comments that can be sent until October 17.


The task force explained that the recommendation aims to help identify any mental health disorders as early as possible, which would otherwise risk going untreated for years or even decades. Screening usually takes place in doctors' offices, where patients fill out questionnaires during routine visits or other appointments.

Earlier this year, the committee made a similar recommendation for children and adolescents .

Although experts were already working on these indications before the outbreak of the pandemic, the document, as Lori Pbert, a clinical psychologist, professor at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School and a member of the task force, told the New York Times . a moment of "critical need".


The task force explained that it did not extend the recommendation to over 65s because "there is no clear evidence of the effectiveness of screening tools in older adults as anxiety symptoms are similar to normal signs of aging, such as fatigue and generalized pain ".

Furthermore, a study published in Nature states that although until the mid-1990s it was thought that "depression was a condition found only in adults", "the typical onset is in the early teens, a period of intense brain development ".

Half of all mental disorders, the scientific journal adds, start by age 14 and 75% by age 20. If a young person experiences depression or anxiety it is often a sign that they may face life-long challenges with the symptoms.

Graph via Nature


Pbert explained that factors such as inflation, increased crime, fear of disease and the loss of loved ones due to the pandemic have resulted in higher- than-normal levels of anxiety in the United States.


Through questionnaires, the Wall Street Journal reads, patients will be asked how often they feel depressed or hopeless, if they have problems with sleep, fatigue or appetite, if they have thoughts of harming themselves or how often they don't. they manage to control their worries, on a scale from 'not at all' to 'almost every day'.


According to the task force, about a quarter of men and about 40% of women in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder during their lifetime and according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of adults Americans who have received mental health treatment in the past 12 months has increased from 19% in 2019 to 22% in 2021.

Graph via Cdc

Studies also show that women have nearly double the risk of depression than men, and the recommendation paid particular attention to screening for pregnant and postpartum patients.


The task force, the NYT reports, also said that "rigorous review of available studies revealed that black or Hispanic people are often underrepresented in mental health research, which, if not addressed, could contribute to a cycle of inequity. ".

From 2014 to 2019, data shows that the suicide rate among black Americans increased by 30%.

Graph via Cdc


Health insurances, specifies the WSJ , are often required to cover the services recommended by the task force under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, the so-called Obamacare.


Psychiatrists, while delighting with the attention paid to mental health, also stressed that standardized screening is only the first step towards a diagnosis and that practitioners should be careful not to assume that a positive screening result indicates a clinical disorder. .

In fact, it is feared that an overdiagnosis of false positives could have side effects. In the UK , for example, the WSJ recalls, after a 2020 review, screening for depression was no longer recommended, partly for these reasons.

As stated by Pbert, there is also a lack of sufficient evidence to make a recommendation for or against suicide screening, despite a 30% increase in cases over the past two decades.


But the rise in mental health problems isn't just in the United States. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), anxiety and depression increased by 25% globally during the first year of the pandemic and have only partially improved since then.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Thu, 22 Sep 2022 08:33:01 +0000.