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Sex and age-related anxiety in a community sample of Norwegian adolescents

Authors

  • EINAR LEIKANGER,

    1. Regional Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
    2. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Helse Sunnmøre HF, Volda Hospital, Norway
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  • JO MAGNE INGUL,

    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Levanger Hospital, Norway
    2. Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
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  • BO LARSSON

    1. Regional Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
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E. Leikanger, Regional Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Department of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway. Tel: +47 41641033; e-mail: einar.leikanger@ntnu.no

Abstract

Leikanger, E., Ingul, J. M. & Larsson, B. (2012). Sex and age-related anxiety in a community sample of Norwegian adolescents. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 53, 150–157.

The first aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of anxiety and DSM-related anxiety symptom-clusters among adolescents (13–19 years of age) in middle Norway. A second aim was to examine the developmental trajectories of anxiety symptoms for boys and girls during adolescence. In a cross-sectional study, 1,802 students in junior high schools and high schools in the Mid-Norway Health Region filled out a questionnaire (a response-rate of 77%) including the SCARED self-report form (Birmaher et al., 1997) during one school hour. In line with findings of previous studies, girls reported higher anxiety-levels than did boys. A large gender-specific increase in anxiety in 14–15-year-old girls was also found. Apart from this age-specific effect, the results indicated a general reduction in anxiety during adolescence for all symptom groups except generalized anxiety and school phobia. The high anxiety levels in girls aged 13 to 14 years implicate a need for caution by clinicians because such high anxiety levels may be mistaken for the existence of an anxiety disorder. The rapid increase in anxiety symptoms among girls in early adolescence may reflect a heightened sensitivity in this age group, and may have implications for when to implement secondary prevention programs.

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