Prevalence, incidence, morbidity and treatment patterns in a cohort of patients diagnosed with anxiety in UK primary care

Fam Pract. 2010 Feb;27(1):9-16. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmp071. Epub 2009 Nov 1.


Background: Anxiety disorders are common and can cause substantial quality of life impairment.

Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the frequency of anxiety in UK primary care. Treatment patterns and factors associated with an anxiety diagnosis were also assessed.

Methods: The Health Improvement Network was used to identify all patients aged 10-79 years with a new diagnosis of anxiety in 2002-04 (n = 40 873) and age-, sex- and calendar-year-matched controls (n = 50 000). A nested case-control analysis was used to quantify potential risk factors for anxiety by multivariate logistic regression.

Results: The prevalence of anxiety was 7.2% and the incidence was 9.7 per 1000 person-years. Incidence and prevalence were highest in women and young adults (20-29 years). Anxiety was associated with heavy alcohol use, smoking and addiction problems as well as stress, sleep and depression disorders. Anxiety patients used health care services more frequently than controls. Among patients diagnosed with anxiety, 63% were treated pharmacologically. Antidepressants accounted for almost 80% of prescriptions.

Conclusions: The prevalence and incidence of anxiety are high in UK primary care and are almost twice as high in women than in men. Anxiety is associated with other psychiatric morbidity as well as frequent health care use. Antidepressants are the most commonly used pharmacological treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety* / drug therapy
  • Anxiety* / epidemiology
  • Anxiety* / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult