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Open Access Primary research

Anxiety as a risk factor for school absenteeism: what differentiates anxious school attenders from non-attenders?

Jo Magne Ingul12* and Hans M Nordahl23

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Levanger Hospital, Nord-Trøndelag Health Trust, Kirkegt 2, 7600 Levanger, Norway

2 Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway

3 Department of Psychiatry, Levanger Hospital, Nord-Trøndelag Health Trust, Lavanger, Norway

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Annals of General Psychiatry 2013, 12:25  doi:10.1186/1744-859X-12-25

Published: 25 July 2013

Abstract

Background

Anxiety is a major risk factor for problematic school absenteeism. However, most anxious students attend school. What differentiates anxious attenders from non-attenders?

Method

High school students (N = 865) were assigned to groups based on anxiety and absenteeism scores. These groups were then tested for differences in risk factor profiles using discriminant analysis.

Results

Anxious school attenders were less affected by negative personality traits, total number of risk factors, social anxiety, panic, and behavioural and family problems. They also displayed greater resilience.

Conclusions

This study indicates that the risk for problematic school absenteeism increases as the number of risk factors aggregate and that treatment for anxious school refusal should be based on a profile of the individual's risk factors.

Keywords:
School absenteeism; Anxiety; Depression; Neuroticism; Behavioural problems; Risk factors