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

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstract


Anxiety disorders are common. Between 1998 and 2008, GP recording of anxiety symptoms increased, but recording of anxiety disorders decreased. However, it is not known whether such trends have continued and what influences GPs’ coding decisions. The aim of this study was to examine recent trends in recording of anxiety in UK primary care, and to understand the factors influencing how GPs choose to code.
We used data from adults aged 18 years and over, registered with general practices in the UK that contributed to the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) between 2003-2018. Incidence rates and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated for recording of anxiety symptoms and diagnoses. In addition, interviews were conducted with 15 GPs, using a topic guide to ensure consistency. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.
The dataset included 176 practices, with 2,569,153 patients contributing 27,533,434.90 years of follow-up. The incidence of anxiety symptoms rose from 6.21 to 14.66/1000PYAR from 2003 to 2018. Between 2003-2008, the incidence of anxiety diagnoses fell from 13.15 to 10.13/1000PYAR; markedly increasing between 2014 and 2018 to 15.31/1000PYAR. When interviewed GPs said they preferred symptom codes to diagnostic codes to avoid assigning potentially stigmatising labels, and commented on a rise in anxiety in recent years, especially
in young people.
Take-home message
The earlier decline in recording of anxiety diagnoses may have been due to a reluctance to use stigmatising labels. However, anxiety diagnoses and symptoms have increased recently, which may reflect increased presentation to primary care, especially in younger people.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2020
EventPrimary Care Mental Health Research Conference -
Duration: 11 May 2020 → …


ConferencePrimary Care Mental Health Research Conference
Period11/05/20 → …

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