Trends in the recording of anxiety in UK primary care: a multi-method approach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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PURPOSE: Anxiety disorders are common. Between 1998 and 2008, in the UK, GP recording of anxiety symptoms increased, but the recording of anxiety disorders decreased. We do not know whether such trends have continued. This study examined recent trends in the recording of anxiety and explored factors that may influence GPs' coding of anxiety.

METHODS: We used data from adults (n = 2,569,153) registered with UK general practices (n = 176) that contributed to the Clinical Practice Research Datalink between 2003 and 2018. Incidence rates and 95% confidence intervals were calculated for recorded anxiety symptoms and diagnoses and were stratified by age and gender. Joinpoint regression was used to estimate the years trends changed. In addition, in-depth interviews were conducted with 15 GPs to explore their views and management of anxiety. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.

RESULTS: The incidence of anxiety symptoms rose from 6.2/1000 person-years at risk (PYAR) in 2003 to 14.7/1000 PYAR in 2018. Between 2003 and 2008, the incidence of anxiety diagnoses fell from 13.2 to 10.1/1000 PYAR; markedly increasing between 2013 and 2018 to 15.3/1000 PYAR. GPs mentioned that they preferred using symptom codes to diagnostic codes to avoid assigning potentially stigmatising or unhelpful labels, and commented on a rise in anxiety in recent years, especially in young adults.

CONCLUSION: Recent increases in the recording of both anxiety diagnoses and symptoms may reflect increased presentation to primary care, especially in young adults. There is a clear need to understand the reasons for this, and this knowledge may be critical in the prevention and treatment of anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021
EventPrimary Care Mental Health Research Conference -
Duration: 11 May 2020 → …


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