Background: We aimed to assess available evidence on risk factors associated with the onset of panic disorder (PD) and/or generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) in cohort studies in the general adult population.
Methods: Systematic review using MEDLINE, PsycINFO and Embase. Search terms included panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, cohort studies and risk factors.
Results: We finally selected 21 studies, involving 163,366 persons with a median follow-up of 5 years. 1) Sociodemographic factors: PD was associated with age, female gender, and few economic resources. GAD was associated with age, non-Hispanics and Blacks, being divorced or widowed, and few economic resources. 2) Psychosocial factors: PD was associated with smoking and alcohol problems. GAD was associated with stressful life events in childhood and adulthood, and personality. 3) Physical and mental health factors: PD was associated with the number of physical diseases suffered and the joint hypermobility syndrome. PD was also associated with a parental history of mental disorders, as well as with other anxiety disorders and other mental health problems in the person affected. GAD was associated with a parental history of mental disorders, as well as with other anxiety disorders and other mental health problems in the person affected, plus already having received psychiatric care.
Limitations: Few studies examined the same risk factors.
Conclusions: Sociodemographic, psychosocial and mental-physical health risk factors were determinant for the onset of PD and GAD in the general adult population. These findings could be useful for developing preventive interventions in PD and GAD.
Keywords: Anxiety disorders; Generalised anxiety disorder; Panic disorder; Risk factors; Systematic review.
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