Disorder-specific mental health service use for mood and anxiety disorders: associations with age, sex, and psychiatric comorbidity

Depress Anxiety. 2012 Mar;29(3):234-42. doi: 10.1002/da.20911. Epub 2011 Nov 7.


Background: The objectives of this study are to examine the prevalence of disorder-specific mental health service use for mood and anxiety disorders, and relationships between helpseeking and age, sex, and psychiatric comorbidity.

Methods: The authors used Wave 2 data from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), which included 34,653 adults. Cross-tabulations provided helpseeking prevalence rates for five anxiety disorders and three mood disorders by age and sex, as well as for individuals with and without comorbid anxiety and mood disorders. Logistic regression analyses explored the likelihood of helpseeking among younger and middle-aged adults in comparison to older adults.

Results: The prevalence of helpseeking was highest for panic disorder (45.3%) and dysthymia (44.5%) and lowest for specific phobias (7.8%). For each condition except panic disorder service use was most likely among middle-aged adults and especially unlikely among older individuals. Sex differences in treatment seeking favoring women showed only modest variability with age. Finally, the prevalence of helpseeking was generally lower among individuals without comorbid anxiety or mood disorders, and the hill-shaped influence of age on service use was attenuated in this pure group.

Conclusions: The results of this study highlight the highest prevalence of disorder-specific service use among middle-aged adults and women, and among individuals with panic disorder and dysthymia. For purposes of identifying groups who are in need of targeted efforts to increase service use, helpseeking was especially unlikely among people suffering from specific phobia, as well as among men and older adults.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Dysthymic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Panic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult