Anxiety and depression: a 40-year perspective on relationships regarding prevalence, distribution, and comorbidity

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2004 May;109(5):355-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2003.00286.x.


Objective: Building on a report about the prevalence of depression over time, this paper examines historical trends regarding anxiety in terms of its prevalence, its distribution by age and gender, and its comorbidity with depression. Methods for conducting such time trend analysis are reviewed.

Method: Representative samples of adults were selected and interviewed in 1952, 1970, and 1992. Logistic regressions were used for statistical analysis.

Results: Although twice as common as depression, the prevalence of anxiety was equally stable. Anxiety was consistently and significantly more characteristic of women than men. A re-distribution of rates in 1992 indicated that depression but not anxiety had significantly increased among younger women (P = 0.03). Throughout the study, approximately half of the cases of anxiety also suffered depression.

Conclusion: The relationships between anxiety and depression remained similar over time with the exception that depression came to resemble anxiety as a disorder to which women were significantly more vulnerable than men. Social and historical factors should be investigated to assess their relevance to this change.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence