Anxiety prevalence following spinal cord injury: a meta-analysis

Spinal Cord. 2016 Aug;54(8):570-8. doi: 10.1038/sc.2016.15. Epub 2016 Mar 8.


Study design: Meta-analysis.

Objectives: Prevalence estimates indicate that anxiety following spinal cord injury (SCI) is a common problem. However, methodological differences between studies may impact the clinical interpretation of these data.

Methods: Data from 18 independent studies (Nparticipants=3158), which reported the prevalence of an anxiety disorder or associated symptoms, were identified from the Embase, PubMed and PsycInfo databases. Proportions were the primary effect size estimate. Confidence intervals, fail-safe Ns and the I(2) statistic were additionally calculated to identify the extent to which findings were robust and consistent across studies.

Results: Five per cent of participants met the criteria for either GAD or panic disorder, with Agoraphobia identified in 2.5%. These diagnostic data were, however, limited to two studies. Higher rates were noted for self-reported 'caseness' of anxiety, with 27% reporting clinically significant symptoms. Anxiety prevalence estimates varied across the individual self-report measures (range: 15-32%). Method of administration (range: 26-32%) did not impact significantly on these estimates nor did recruitment source, with similarly high anxiety levels reported by hospital (27%) and community (29%) samples.

Conclusions: Early identification and treatment of anxiety are important in SCI rehabilitation, with a subgroup of individuals experiencing chronic symptoms. Further research is needed to establish guidelines for the interpretation of self-report data, including the use of clinical cutoffs.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / complications*
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / epidemiology