Anxiety management in Australian general practice: an analysis of encounters from 2006 – 2016

Erin L. Parker, Michelle Banfield, Daniel B. Fassnacht, Christine B. Phillips, Christopher Harrison

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Background: Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent mental health conditions managed predominantly by general practitioners (GPs). This study aimed to examine the management of anxiety by Australian GPs since the introduction of the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners initiative in 2006. 

Methods: We conducted secondary analysis of Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health data on GP encounters for anxiety from 2006 to 2016 (N = 28,784). We calculated point estimates and used multivariate logistic regression to explore the effect of GP and patient characteristics on rates and types of management. 

Results: The management rate of anxiety increased from 2.3% of GP encounters in 2006 to 3.2% in 2016. Over the 10-year period, increases were seen in referrals to psychologists (AOR = 1.09, 95%CI = 1.07–1.11, p <.0001) and selective serotonin / serotonin-noradrenalin reuptake inhibitors (AOR = 1.05, 95%CI = 1.03–1.06, p <.0001), and benzodiazepines decreased (AOR = 0.94, 95%CI = 0.92–0.95, p <.0001). Systematic differences in management were found for patient and GP characteristics, including high rates of benzodiazepines in certain groups. 

Conclusions: Anxiety is accounting for more of the GP workload, year on year. GP management of anxiety has become more closely aligned with practice guidelines since 2006. However, high rates of benzodiazepine prescribing in certain groups remains a concern. Further research is needed into GP treatment decision making for anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Article number156
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Primary Care
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2023


  • Anxiety
  • General practice
  • Management
  • Primary care


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