Objective: Although the incidence of first panic attacks appears to peak during adolescence, little is known about which features of adolescence contribute to the risk of a first panic episode. The purpose of this study was to compare the relative importance of age and pubertal stage in explaining the occurrence of panic attacks in adolescents.
Method: From a school-based sample of sixth- and seventh-grade girls, 754 subjects completed both a structured clinical interview determining history of one or more panic episodes and a self-assessment of Tanner stages of pubertal development. A multiple logistic regression analysis was performed with panic attack history as the dependent variable and pubertal stage, age, and their interaction as the independent variables.
Results: A history of one or more four-symptom panic attacks was found in 5.3% of the girls (N = 40). After age was controlled for, pubertal stage was significantly related to panic attack history. At each age, higher rates of panic attacks were found in the more physically mature girls.
Conclusions: Pubertal stage, after adjustment for the effects of age, appears to predict panic attack occurrence in young adolescent girls. Understanding the link between puberty and panic may offer clues regarding the onset and etiology of panic attacks.