Recent trends in the incidence of anxiety diagnoses and symptoms in primary care

PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e41670. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041670. Epub 2012 Aug 3.


Background: Anxiety is common, with significant morbidity, but little is known about presentations and recording of anxiety diagnoses and symptoms in primary care. This study aimed to determine trends in incidence and socio-demographic variation in General Practitioner (GP) recorded diagnoses of anxiety, mixed anxiety/depression, panic and anxiety symptoms.

Methodology/principal findings: Annual incidence rates of anxiety diagnoses and symptoms were calculated from 361 UK general practices contributing to The Health Improvement Network (THIN) database between 1998 and 2008, adjusted for year of diagnosis, gender, age, and deprivation. Incidence of GP recorded anxiety diagnosis fell from 7.9 to 4.9/1000PYAR from 1998 to 2008, while incidence of anxiety symptoms rose from 3.9 to 5.8/1000PYAR. Incidence of mixed anxiety/depression fell from 4.0 to 2.2/1000PYAR, and incidence of panic disorder fell from 0.9/1000PYAR in 1998 to 0.5/1000PYAR in 2008. All these entries were approximately twice as common in women and more common in deprived areas. GP-recorded anxiety diagnoses, symptoms and mixed anxiety/depression were commonest aged 45-64 years, whilst panic disorder/attacks were more common in those 16-44 years. GPs predominately use broad non-specific codes to record anxiety problems in the UK.

Conclusions/significance: GP recording of anxiety diagnoses has fallen whilst recording of anxiety symptoms has increased over time. The incidence of GP recorded diagnoses of anxiety diagnoses was lower than in screened populations in primary care. The reasons for this apparent under-recording and whether it represents under-detection in those being seen, a reluctance to report anxiety to their GP, or a reluctance amongst GPs to label people with anxiety requires investigation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Panic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Panic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology