Background. This article presents epidemiological data on the prevalence of DSM-IV generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and sub-threshold GAD (fulfilling three out of four GAD criteria) in young women together with data on co-morbidity and psychosocial functioning. The prevalence of clinically relevant worry and its predictive validity for the diagnosis of GAD were also examined.
Method. Young women (N = 2064), aged between 18 and 25, from a representative German community sample were diagnosed with a structured clinical interview (ADIS-L, German research version). An additional interview questioned all the participants about the frequency/intensity and uncontrollability of diverse worry topics.
Results. Thirty-seven participants (1.8%) fulfilled the criteria of current GAD (1 week point prevalence) and 56 received a lifetime diagnosis (2.7%); a further 50 participants (2.3%) were diagnosed with sub-threshold GAD. Co-morbidity between GAD and other disorders was high for current (68%) and lifetime GAD (91%). GAD, as well as sub-threshold GAD, showed clearly reduced levels of psychosocial functioning. Whereas worries of low intensity and high controllability were ubiquitous in all subsamples, clinically defined worrying was rarely present in healthy subjects (0.89%) and of adequate predictive accuracy for GAD.
Conclusions. Full GAD and sub-threshold GAD were moderately frequent in young women. Although DSM-IV worry criteria proved to be highly useful, the strictness of the complete GAD-criteria should not lead to absence of attention from subclinical generalized anxiety states in research and practice.