Screenings for anxiety should begin at age 8, panel recommends

Posted at 1:06 PM, Apr 13, 2022

A task force of experts said that children as young as age 8 should be screened for anxiety, according to draft recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

The task force also said that children should be screened for depression starting at age 12.

The group also added there is not enough evidence for recommending screenings for younger children. The task force said additional research is needed on screening children for suicide risk.

“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,” says task force member Martha Kubik. “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 there continues to be limited evidence about screening for suicide risk in those without signs or symptoms across all ages.

“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,” says task force member Lori Pbert. “In the meantime, healthcare professionals should use their clinical judgment based on individual patient circumstances when deciding whether or not to screen.”