National Health Panel calls for adult anxiety screenings

National Health Panel calls for adult anxiety screenings

For the first time, a national task force has recommended that doctors screen all adults under 65 for anxiety during routine visits.

The recommendations come from the US Task Force on Preventive Services, which has studied the issue.

“By screening for anxiety disorders, we’re able to catch people early,” said Dr. Lori Pbert, a member of the task force and a professor at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School.

She says nearly one in five adults have reported anxiety disorders in the past year alone, in part due to the pandemic which has led to stress, isolation and fear.

“We hope these recommendations will move the needle and shine a light on the need to expand mental health services in this country,” she said.

Dr. Edward Silberman, a psychiatrist at Tufts Medical Center, says screenings could help identify any problems, but follow-ups will be essential.

“Nothing good will come of it if people don’t have adequate access to services,” he said. “Adequate access to mental health care. Without it, it’s just kind of a tease.”

Dr. Luana Marques, a clinical psychologist at Mass General Hospital, has studied anxiety for two decades.

“I think recommending screenings for anxiety is great in principle,” she said.

She says screenings could help identify patients with problems, but investment in mental health is needed.

“We are in the midst of a mental health crisis,” she said. “We really need a lot more mental health professionals, psychiatrists, people who can identify and deal with emotional issues.”

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