Background: Despite their high prevalence, the global burden of anxiety disorders has never been calculated comprehensively. The new Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study has estimated burden due to morbidity and mortality caused by any anxiety disorder.
Method: Prevalence was estimated using Bayesian meta-regression informed by data identified in a systematic review. Years of life lived with disability (YLDs) were calculated by multiplying prevalent cases by an average disability weight based on severity proportions (mild, moderate and severe). Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) were then calculated and age standardized using global standard population figures. Estimates were also made for additional suicide mortality attributable to anxiety disorders. Findings are presented for YLDs, DALYs and attributable burden due to suicide for 21 world regions in 1990 and 2010.
Results: Anxiety disorders were the sixth leading cause of disability, in terms of YLDs, in both high-income (HI) and low- and middle-income (LMI) countries. Globally, anxiety disorders accounted for 390 DALYs per 100,000 persons [95% uncertainty interval (UI) 191-371 DALYs per 100,000] in 2010, with no discernible change observed over time. Females accounted for about 65% of the DALYs caused by anxiety disorders, with the highest burden in both males and females experienced by those aged between 15 and 34 years. Although there was regional variation in prevalence, the overlap between uncertainty estimates means that substantive differences in burden between populations could not be identified.
Conclusions: Anxiety disorders are chronic, disabling conditions that are distributed across the globe. Future estimates of burden could be further improved by obtaining more representative data on severity state proportions.