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GAD Prevalence Rates

GAD Affects Approximately 5% of the Public

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Updated March 17, 2007

Despite significant anxiety being a common thing for many people to experience during their lives, the subgroup of people who have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is much smaller. According to DSM-IV, approximately 3% of people will develop the disorder during a given year, and 5% of people will have GAD at some point in their lives. Furthermore, approximately a quarter of the people who attend anxiety treatment clinics have GAD.

Women Affected at Higher Rates

One notable fact about GAD is that it affects a larger number of women than men. Brown, O'Leary, and Barlow (2001) summarized current prevalence estimates, and reported that the most current information shows that there is a 2:1 female/male ratio for GAD. A recent German study found that 6.6% of women and 3.6% of men at some point during the lifespan. DSM-IV has slightly different figures and reported that between 55-60% of sufferers are women. Despite some slight differences, there is consensus opinion that GAD is experienced more frequently by women than men.

Elderly Are at Greater Risk
Research has also found that Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) may affect people at different rates based on age. Brown, O'Leary, and Barlow (2001) summarized current prevalence estimates, and reported that although research on GAD and the elderly is not complete, 17% of elderly men and 21.5% of elderly women experience severe anxiety Furthermore, the rate of GAD in this population may be the highest of any age group. They also reported that the lowest prevalence rates are for people between the ages of 15-24. Finally, DSM-IV notes that GAD may be over-diagnosed in children presenting with anxiety. GAD can affect people of all ages, and although many people experience some of the symptoms at a very early age, it can fully develop at any point during the lifespan.

Sources: American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Barlow D.H. (Ed.)(2001). Clinical Handbook of Psychological Disorders (3rd Ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

Wittchen, H.U. (2002). Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Prevalence, Burden, and Cost to Society. Depression & Anxiety, 16, 162-171.

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