CHILDREN should be screened for anxiety disorders to prevent them developing severe mental problems in later life, it has been claimed.
Treating anxiety early would be the single most effective way of reducing the burden of mental disorders -- one of the most common causes of disability in the developed world, according to Professor Hans Ulrich Witten, lead author of a study of the state of Europe's mental health.
It is estimated that 38.2pc -- 165 million people -- of people in Europe suffers from a mental disorder and that anxiety is the commonest. All age groups are affected but some conditions, such as eating disorders, are more prevalent among the young and others, such as dementia, commoner in the elderly.
The findings of the three-year study, which covered 30 countries and more than 500 million people, have been published in the journal European Psychopharmacology.
The incidence of depression has doubled since the 1970s and the average age at onset has fallen from the mid-twenties to the late teens as adolescents lost their sense of security in a changing world, Professor Witten said.
Professor Witten said: "We screen for dental caries [decay] - why not for anxiety, ... because the potential treatments are so effective?"
However, Professor Thomas Insel, director of the US National Institute for Mental Health, cast doubt on screening for anxiety. He said: "To get a risk calculator for anxiety we need biomarkers -- and we don't have them yet." They would, however, become available over the next decade, he added. (© Independent News Services)