Treatment of anxiety disorders in the Finnish general population

Sinikka Sihvo, Juha Hämäläinen, Olli Kiviruusu, Sami Pirkola, Erkki Isometsä

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Treatments for anxiety disorders in the general population are not widely investigated. We determined the proportion, type and determinants of treatment in the Finnish general population. Methods: Within the Health 2000 Study, a representative sample (n = 6005) of adults (age > 30 years) were interviewed in 2000-2001 with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (M-CIDI) to assess the presence of DSM-IV mental disorders during the preceding 12 months. Logistic regression models were used to examine factors influencing the type of treatment (pharmacotherapy and/or psychological treatment) and also the types of pharmacotherapy (antidepressants, anxiolytics, or sedatives and hypnotics) used for anxiety disorders. Results: For individuals with an anxiety disorder, 40% (95/229) currently used psychotropic medication, 23% (55/229) used antidepressants, 19% (44/229) anxiolytics and 17% (41/229) sedatives or hypnotics. Of those using health care services for mental health reasons (34%, 76/229), 80% (61/76) received pharmacotherapy. Only 45% (34/76) reported having psychological treatment, with few having more than 4 visits (27%, 20/76). Living in a semi-urban environment, retirement and high perceived disability increased the likelihood of pharmacotherapy-only treatment; higher education and comorbidity with mood disorders increased the likelihood of psychological treatment. General practitioners more often than psychiatrists provided pharmacotherapy treatment alone (67% vs. 34%, p < 0.05), particularly anxiolytics or sedatives. Limitations: Use of mental health services and psychological treatment were based on self-reports. No data on duration of pharmacotherapy was available. Conclusions: Anxiety disorders remain largely untreated in the general population. Among those seeking treatment, pharmacotherapy predominates, whereas even brief psychotherapies are rare. Contrary to clinical guidelines, anxiolytics and sedatives are commonly used instead of antidepressants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Antidepressants
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Anxiolytics
  • Population-based survey
  • Psychotropics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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