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Screening for Anxiety in Children and AdolescentsUS Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement

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Abstract

Importance  Anxiety disorder, a common mental health condition in the US, comprises a group of related conditions characterized by excessive fear or worry that present as emotional and physical symptoms. The 2018-2019 National Survey of Children’s Health found that 7.8% of children and adolescents aged 3 to 17 years had a current anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders in childhood and adolescence are associated with an increased likelihood of a future anxiety disorder or depression.

Objective  The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) commissioned a systematic review to evaluate the benefits and harms of screening for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. This is a new recommendation.

Population  Children and adolescents 18 years or younger who do not have a diagnosed anxiety disorder or are not showing recognized signs or symptoms of anxiety.

Evidence Assessment  The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that screening for anxiety in children and adolescents aged 8 to 18 years has a moderate net benefit. The USPSTF concludes that the evidence is insufficient on screening for anxiety in children 7 years or younger.

Recommendation  The USPSTF recommends screening for anxiety in children and adolescents aged 8 to 18 years. (B recommendation) The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for anxiety in children 7 years or younger. (I statement)

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Carol M. Mangione, MD, MSPH, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, 10940 Wilshire Blvd, Ste 700, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (chair@uspstf.net).

Accepted for Publication: September 1, 2022.

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Members: Carol M. Mangione, MD, MSPH; Michael J. Barry, MD; Wanda K. Nicholson, MD, MPH, MBA; Michael Cabana, MD, MA, MPH; Tumaini Rucker Coker, MD, MBA; Karina W. Davidson, PhD, MASc; Esa M. Davis, MD, MPH; Katrina E. Donahue, MD, MPH; Carlos Roberto Jaén, MD, PhD, MS; Martha Kubik, PhD, RN; Li Li, MD, PhD, MPH; Gbenga Ogedegbe, MD, MPH; Lori Pbert, PhD; John M. Ruiz, PhD; Michael Silverstein, MD, MPH; James Stevermer, MD, MSPH; John B. Wong, MD.

Affiliations of The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Members: University of California, Los Angeles (Mangione); Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (Barry); University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Nicholson, Donahue); Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, New York (Cabana); University of Washington, Seattle (Coker); Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health, Manhasset, New York (Davidson); University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Davis); The University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio (Jaén); George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia (Kubik); University of Virginia, Charlottesville (Li); New York University, New York, New York (Ogedegbe); University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, Worcester (Pbert); University of Arizona, Tucson (Ruiz); Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island (Silverstein); University of Missouri, Columbia (Stevermer); Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts (Wong).

Author Contributions: Dr Mangione had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. The USPSTF members contributed equally to the recommendation statement.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Authors followed the policy regarding conflicts of interest described at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Name/conflict-of-interest-disclosures. All members of the USPSTF receive travel reimbursement and an honorarium for participating in USPSTF meetings.

Funding/Support: The USPSTF is an independent, voluntary body. The US Congress mandates that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) support the operations of the USPSTF.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: AHRQ staff assisted in the following: development and review of the research plan, commission of the systematic evidence review from an Evidence-based Practice Center, coordination of expert review and public comment of the draft evidence report and draft recommendation statement, and the writing and preparation of the final recommendation statement and its submission for publication. AHRQ staff had no role in the approval of the final recommendation statement or the decision to submit for publication.

Disclaimer: Recommendations made by the USPSTF are independent of the US government. They should not be construed as an official position of AHRQ or the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Additional Contributions: We thank Iris Mabry-Hernandez, MD, MPH (AHRQ), who contributed to the writing of the manuscript, and Lisa Nicolella, MA (AHRQ), who assisted with coordination and editing.

Additional Information: The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) makes recommendations about the effectiveness of specific preventive care services for patients without obvious related signs or symptoms. It bases its recommendations on the evidence of both the benefits and harms of the service and an assessment of the balance. The USPSTF does not consider the costs of providing a service in this assessment. The USPSTF recognizes that clinical decisions involve more considerations than evidence alone. Clinicians should understand the evidence but individualize decision-making to the specific patient or situation. Similarly, the USPSTF notes that policy and coverage decisions involve considerations in addition to the evidence of clinical benefits and harms. Published by JAMA®—Journal of the American Medical Association under arrangement with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). ©2022 AMA and United States Government, as represented by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), by assignment from the members of the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). All rights reserved.

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