Oct 11, 2022 - Health

Anxiety screenings recommended for children 8 years and older

Illustration of a lone teddy bear.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A national task force on Tuesday recommended that children as young as eight years old be screened for anxiety, even if they don't have symptoms.

Why it matters: The panel's recommendation cited the 2018-2019 National Survey of Children's Health, which found that 7.8% of children aged 3-17 had an anxiety disorder. However, the percentage is likely to be higher after the pandemic, which has exacerbated mental health issues among children.

  • The task force said in a press release that screenings and follow-up care "can improve, and potentially resolve, anxiety."

By the numbers: Approximately 5.8 million children were diagnosed with anxiety between 2016 and 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State of play: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of medical experts from the fields of primary and preventative care, said that screening for anxiety in children between the ages of eight and 18 — regardless of symptoms — has a "moderate net benefit."

  • The task force said that it did not have enough evidence to conclude whether children 7 or younger should also be screened for anxiety.

Don't forget: Anxiety screenings are not sufficient to diagnose anxiety. If they are positive, a follow-up is required.

What they're saying: "We can't not be screening children and teens," task force member Lori Pbert told NBC News.

  • "We have to identify them early. We don't want them struggling," Pbert added.

Catch up fast: This comes nearly a month after the task force recommended that adults under the age of 65 be screened for anxiety.

What else is happening: The panel also reasserted that all teens aged 12 to 18 should be screened for depression.

If you or someone you know needs suicide support now, call or text 988 or chat with someone at988lifeline.org. En Español.

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