• anxiety;
  • early intervention;
  • population surveys;
  • public mental health;
  • risk factors

Batelaan NM, Smit F, de Graaf R, van Balkom AJLM, Vollebergh WAM, Beekman ATF. Identifying target groups for the prevention of anxiety disorders in the general population.

Objective:  To avert the public health consequences of anxiety disorders, prevention of their onset and recurrence is necessary. Recent studies have shown that prevention is effective. To maximize the health gain and minimize the effort, preventive strategies should focus on high-risk groups.

Method:  Using data from a large prospective national survey, high-risk groups were selected for i) the prevention of first ever (n = 4437) and ii) either first-ever or recurrent incident anxiety disorders (n = 4886). Indices used were: exposure rate, odds ratio, population attributable fraction and number needed to be treated. Risk indicators included sociodemographic, psychological and illness-related factors.

Results:  Recognition of a few patient characteristics enables efficient identification of high-risk groups: (subthreshold) panic attacks; an affective disorder; a history of depressed mood; a prior anxiety disorder; chronic somatic illnesses and low mastery.

Conclusion:  Preventive efforts should be undertaken in the selected high-risk groups.