Generalized anxiety symptoms and identity processes in cross-cultural samples of adolescents from the general population

Document Type



Institute for Human Development


Abstract: Background Approximately 20 % of adolescents around the world experience mental health problems, most commonly depression or anxiety. High levels of anxiety disorder symptoms can hinder adolescent development, persist into adulthood, and predict negative mental outcomes, such as suicidal ideation and attempts.

Objectives We analyzed generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms in cross-cultural samples from the general population. We sought to examine cultural and gender differences, and correlates of GAD symptoms in samples of adolescents from six countries located in three different continents (Europe: Bulgaria, Italy, the Netherlands; Africa: Kenya; Asia: China and Philippines).

Methods Participants were 3,445 (51 % male) adolescents aged between 14 and 18 years old. They filled self-report measures of GAD symptoms and identity.

Results First, it was found that the scores on GAD symptoms varied significantly across countries, with Dutch respondents reporting the lowest levels whereas Filipino participants exhibited the highest levels of GAD symptoms. Second, gender differences (i.e., girls reported more GAD symptoms than boys) were significant in each country (as well as in the total sample), with the only exception being that of Kenya. Third, GAD symptoms were significantly related to identity processes and similarities and differences across countries were examined.

Conclusions This study highlighted that prevalence, gender differences, and correlates of GAD vary across countries. Therefore, it is important when researching GAD symptoms to examine one’s research findings within a global perspective.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.


Child & Youth Care Forum