The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) is a project that was undertaken in 1990 to identify the prevalence of mental health issues and the burden they place on people all over the world. The project revealed that anxiety and depression contributed significantly to the global burden of mental health issues.
However, the GBD looked only at a few anxiety-related issues, including posttraumatic stress, panic, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and did not distinguish further anxiety conditions, such as social anxiety, phobia, and separation anxiety. Therefore, the results related to anxiety prevalence could be distorted.
In an effort to gauge a more accurate assessment of global burden of anxiety, A.J. Baxter of the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, Policy, and Evaluation Group in Australia recently led a thorough examination of the latest data from the GBD. Baxter looked at data from 44 countries comprised in 87 studies and found that overall the prevalence of anxiety worldwide is approximately 7.3%. Baxter noticed that the rates were lower in African countries, with only 5.3% anxiety prevalence, but as high as 10.4% in Anglo-Saxon and European cultures. This estimate of 7.3% for any diagnosis of anxiety is much higher than the previous estimates that were as low as 2.8%.
Anxiety appeared to be more prevalent in nonconflict exposed cultures, which contradicts earlier findings. Also, poorer countries and developing cultures had lower rates of anxiety than more developed societies. Low income has been shown to be a risk factor for anxiety, but based on these findings the income level may only be a risk if it is significantly low for the region.
Baxter also believes that perhaps the diagnostic tools in developing countries are not as advanced as those in other countries, and that could account for lower reporting of anxiety. Baxter added, “Specific attention should be paid to cultural differences in responses to survey instruments for anxiety disorders.” Additional research into these specific findings should be done to clarify these results.
Baxter, A. J., et al. (2013). Global Prevalence of Anxiety Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression. Psychological Medicine 43.5 (2013): 897-910. ProQuest. Web.
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