The impact of anxiety disorders on educational achievement

J Anxiety Disord. 2003;17(5):561-71. doi: 10.1016/s0887-6185(02)00228-1.


Anxiety disorders typically have an age of onset in childhood and adolescence, resulting in significant disability in social and occupational functioning. Epidemiological evidence suggests that persons with psychiatric disorders and perhaps especially social phobia are at increased risk for premature withdrawal from school [Am. J. Psychiatry 157 (2000) 1606]. In order to further determine the impact of anxiety disorders on school functioning and/or premature withdrawal from school, 201 patients meeting DSM-IV criteria for a primary anxiety disorder completed a school leaving questionnaire as well as self-report measures of anxiety, depression, and social adjustment. About 49% (n = 98) reported leaving school prematurely and 24% of those indicated that anxiety was the primary reason for this decision. Patients who had left school prematurely were significantly more likely to have a lifetime diagnosis of generalized social phobia, a past history of alcohol abuse/dependence and a greater number of lifetime diagnoses than those who completed their desired level of education. This study suggests that anxiety disorders, and perhaps especially generalized social phobia, are associated with premature withdrawal from school. Further studies are required to determine methods for early identification and treatment of anxiety disorders in school aged children to enable these students to reach their full potential.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Student Dropouts / psychology