General Anxiety Disorder-7 Questionnaire as a marker of low socioeconomic status and inequity.

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BACKGROUND: The General Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) questionnaire is a standard tool used for screening and follow-up of patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Although it is generally accepted that anxiety correlates with clinical and psychosocial stressors, precise quantitative data is limited on the relations among GAD-7, traditional biomarkers, and other measures of health. Further research is needed about how GAD-7 relates to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (SES) as an assembly. We determined how multiple demographic and socioeconomic data correlate with the participants' GAD-7 results when compared with laboratory, physical function, clinical, and other biological markers.

METHODS: The Project Baseline Health Study (BHS) is a prospective cohort of adults representing several populations in the USA. We analyzed a deeply phenotyped group of 2502 participants from that study. Measures of interest included: clinical markers or history of medical diagnoses; physical function markers including gait, grip strength, balance time, daily steps, and echocardiographic parameters; psychometric measurements; activities of daily living; socioeconomic characteristics; and laboratory results.

RESULTS: Higher GAD-7 scores were associated with female sex, younger age, and Hispanic ethnicity. Measures of low SES were also associated with higher scores, including unemployment, income ≤$25,000, and ≤12 years of education. After adjustment for 158 demographic, clinical, laboratory, and symptom characteristics, unemployment and overall higher SES risk scores were highly correlated with anxiety scores. Protective factors included Black race and older age.

LIMITATIONS: Correlations identified in this cross-sectional study cannot be used to infer causal relationships; further, we were not able to account for possible use of anxiety treatments by study participants.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings highlight the importance of understanding anxiety as a biopsychosocial entity. Clinicians and provider organizations need to consider both the physical manifestations of the disorder and their patients' social determinants of health when considering treatment pathways and designing interventions.



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Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Pediatrics, Department of Surgery

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