Health literacy and the pharmacological treatment of anxiety disorders: A systematic review

M. Carlotta Palazzo, Bernardo Dell'Osso, A. Carlo Altamura, Dan J. Stein, David S. Baldwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective Anxiety disorders are treatable conditions, but many affected individuals neither seek professional help nor adhere to recommended pharmacological treatments. Increasing the health literacy of people with (or at risk of) anxiety disorders may encourage treatment-seeking and adherence to recommended interventions. Aims of this study were to review the literature relating to health literacy in the treatment of anxiety disorders, focusing on results on public opinion on psychotropic medications and its effectiveness in improving access to psychiatric health care and the actual use of medications. Methods A computerized literature search of the published literature on mental health literacy was undertaken, focusing on the question of whether increased mental health literacy led to increased treatment-seeking and pharmacotherapy adherence in individuals with anxiety disorders. Results Twelve relevant articles were identified. All reported that improving mental health literacy leads to raised awareness, and in 10 out of 12 studies, increased help-seeking. However, there is currently no unequivocal evidence to show that increasing health literacy leads to increased use of medication in any psychiatric disorder, including anxiety disorders. Two studies show that knowledge of presumed biological mechanisms can predict use of psychotropic medication, including antidepressants, in psychiatric disorders, however, not specifically in anxiety disorders. Conclusion There have been few investigations of health literacy focused on psychotropic medications. Given the prevalence, burden and sub-optimal recognition, and treatment of anxiety disorders, further work is needed to determine whether increased mental health literacy is associated with treatment-seeking and medication adherence in patients with these disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-215
Number of pages5
JournalHuman Psychopharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • anxiety disorders
  • health literacy
  • pharmacological treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neurology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Medicine(all)


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