Well-Being Prevention & Cures

US panel recommends screening for anxiety for children as young as 8

“Fortunately, we found that screening older children for anxiety and depression is effective in identifying these conditions so children and teens can be connected to the support they need,” a member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said.
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Story at a glance

  • The draft recommendation proposed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said screening should occur for children even if they are not showing symptoms of depression or anxiety.

  • The task force said care following screenings may reduce symptoms of depression and can improve, and potentially resolve, anxiety. 

  • But the task force added in the statement it did not find enough evidence to recommend screenings for children younger than 8 and 12.

Health care screening for anxiety should begin in children as young as eight while screening for depression should start at age 12, a government-backed task force said Tuesday.  

The draft recommendation proposed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said screening should occur for children even if they are not showing symptoms of depression or anxiety.  

“To address the critical need for supporting the mental health of children and adolescents in primary care, the Task Force looked at the evidence on screening for anxiety, depression, and suicide risk,” task force member Martha Kubik, said in a statement. “Fortunately, we found that screening older children for anxiety and depression is effective in identifying these conditions so children and teens can be connected to the support they need.” 

The task force said care following screenings may reduce symptoms of depression and can improve, and potentially resolve, anxiety.  

But the task force added in the statement it did not find enough evidence to recommend screenings for children younger than 8 and 12.  

“The challenge is that, for children and adolescents without signs or symptoms, we do not have the evidence to tell us whether or not it’s beneficial to screen younger children for depression and anxiety and all youth for suicide risk. More research on these important conditions is critical,” task force member Lori Pbert said in the statement. “In the meantime, healthcare professionals should use their clinical judgment based on individual patient circumstances when deciding whether or not to screen.” 


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A coalition of pediatric care groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and Children’s Hospital Association, declared children’s mental health a public health crisis last fall.    

The group drew their conclusion from data collected between March and October 2020 which showed emergency room visits for mental health emergencies among children ages 5-11 increased by 24 percent and by 31 percent for children ages 12-17. 

A recent survey found more than a quarter of parents reported that their child, between the ages 11 and 18, had seen a mental health specialist during the COVID-19 pandemic. But experts say children’s mental health issues predate the virus.  

“The pandemic caused significant stress and social disruption for kids that likely exacerbated these problems, as we’re seeing a growing number of young people face mental health concerns,” Mott Poll co-director and pediatrician Gary L. Freed said in a news release. “This places a heavier burden on parents, health providers and other trusted adults in their lives to be aware of potential warning signs.” 


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