Anxiety Disorders : Epidemiology


Anxiety Disorders are most common class of Psychiatric Disorders. Amongst anxiety disorders most common types are:

  1. Specific phobias
  2. Social Anxiety Disorders
  3. Separation Anxiety Disorders (in children).
  • Lifetime Prevalence of Anxiety Disorders = 30%
  • 12 month Prevalence of Anxiety Disorders = 14%

12 month Prevalence of different types of Anxiety Disorders:

Type of Anxiety Disorders12 month Prevalence
1. Specific Phobia1.9% to 8.7%
2. Social Anxiety Disorder0.2% to 6.8%
3. Generalised Anxiety Disorder2.1% to 3.1%
4. Panic Disorder0.2% to 1.1%


Separation Anxiety Disorders & Specific Phobias50% have onset prior to the age of 8 years & almost all have onset by the age of 12 years.
Social Anxiety DisordersBegins to develop later in childhood showing steep increase in incidence in early adolescence.
Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder
& Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Most cases have onset in later adolescence & early adulthood.

Onset is slightly earlier in males for specific phobias.

Onset is slightly earlier in females for Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

Natural Course:

Natural course of Anxiety Disorders is not typically chronic. Instead, symptoms typically wax & wane over time, with spontaneous complete remission being the rare expectation.

Socio-demographic Factors:

  • Women have higher rates of almost all Anxiety Disorders.
  • Gender differences are usually small in childhood (2:1) & grows with age (3:1 in late adolescence).
  • More common in Divorced/ separated.
  • Higher in people with lower education qualification.
  • Low household income/ parental unemployment may also lead to higher rates of Anxiety Disorders.

Familial Aggregation:

  • Anxiety Disorders run in families.
  • There is a strong risk for offspring with two affected parents & severely affected parents.
  • Parental Depression is also associated with Anxiety Disorders in offspring.

Temperament/ Personality:

Behavioural Inhibition, Anxiety Sensitivity & Neuroticism are viewed as precursor conditions for Anxiety Disorders.

Environmental factors:

  • Adverse Life events in Childhood/ Adolescence: Loss of a Parent or Physical/ Sexual abuse.
  • Unfavourable Parental Rearing Styles: Overprotection/ Parental rejection.

In Particular, threat events tend to precede Anxiety Disorders; whereas loss events tend to precede Depression.

Course Predictors:

  • Female gender is the only demographic variable associated with higher Persistence of most Anxiety Disorders.
  • Best Prognostic Indicators: Severity of symptoms & Duration of illness.


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