News Release

Should All Adults Under 65 Get Screened for Anxiety?


Earlier this month, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that primary care doctors should regularly screen all adults under 65 for anxiety, even those without symptoms.

The Institute for Public Accuracy spoke with psychiatrist and neuroscientist Judson Brewer on the implications of the recommendation.

JUDSON BREWER;, @judbrewer
    Brewer is the director of research and innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center. He is also an associate professor at the university’s School of Public Health and the School of Medicine. 

Brewer said: “The recommendation highlights something really important, which is recognition of the importance of mental health. Anxiety is an obvious place to start, because it’s the most prevalent mental health condition.” Brewer also noted that generalized anxiety disorder tends to peak at mid-life, and this recommendation covers “the biggest swath of the population that is affected.” 

Brewer commented that these types of recommendations generally “get their teeth from hospitals, clinics, and clinicians complying” with them. Insurance companies will often reimburse for care if clinicians are following guidelines, giving the companies “leverage if [clinicians] aren’t following guidelines.” 

“Screening by itself is not so helpful,” Brewer cautions. “If you screen for something you don’t have a treatment for––who cares?” Likewise, if the screening leads to long wait times “to see a therapist who may or may not be good,” the value of the recommendation will fall short.

Brewer researches digital therapeutics that can operate at scale, and highlights the importance of “streamlining and delivering” digital mental health therapies as soon as someone is screened.