Anxiety disorders are common in adolescence but outcomes for adolescents are unclear and we do not know what factors moderate treatment outcome for this age group. We conducted meta-analyses to establish the effectiveness of psychological therapies for adolescent anxiety disorders in (i) reducing anxiety disorder symptoms, and (ii) remission from the primary anxiety disorder, compared with controls, and examine potential moderators of treatment effects. The protocol was registered with PROSPERO (CRD42018091744).
Electronic databases (Web of Science, MEDLINE, Psycinfo, EMBASE) were searched from January 1990 to December 2019. 2511 articles were reviewed, those meeting strict criteria were included. Random effects meta-analyses were conducted. Analyses of symptom severity outcomes comprised sixteen studies (CBT k = 15, non-CBT k = 1; n = 766 adolescents), and analyses of diagnostic remission outcomes comprised nine (CBT k = 9; n = 563 adolescents).
Post-treatment, those receiving treatment were significantly more likely to experience reduced symptom severity (SMD = 0.454, 95% CI 0.22-0.69) and remission from the primary anxiety disorder than controls (RR = 7.94, 95% CI 3.19-12.7) (36% treatment vs. 9% controls in remission). None of the moderators analysed were statistically significant.
Psychological therapies targeting anxiety disorders in adolescents are more effective than controls. However, with only just over a third in remission post-treatment, there is a clear need to develop more effective treatments for adolescents, evaluated through high-quality randomised controlled trials incorporating active controls and follow-up data. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)
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