A network model of depressive and anxiety symptoms: a statistical evaluation

Hong Cai, Meng Yi Chen, Xiao Hong Li, Ling Zhang, Zhaohui Su, Teris Cheung, Yi Lang Tang, Matteo Malgaroli, Todd Jackson, Qinge Zhang, Yu Tao Xiang

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Although network analysis studies of psychiatric syndromes have increased in recent years, most have emphasized centrality symptoms and robust edges. Broadening the focus to include bridge symptoms within a systematic review could help to elucidate symptoms having the strongest links in network models of psychiatric syndromes. We conducted this systematic review and statistical evaluation of network analyses on depressive and anxiety symptoms to identify the most central symptoms and bridge symptoms, as well as the most robust edge indices of networks. Methods: A systematic literature search was performed in PubMed, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and EMBASE databases from their inception to May 25, 2022. To determine the most influential symptoms and connections, we analyzed centrality and bridge centrality rankings and aggregated the most robust symptom connections into a summary network. After determining the most central symptoms and bridge symptoms across network models, heterogeneity across studies was examined using linear logistic regression. Results: Thirty-three studies with 78,721 participants were included in this systematic review. Seventeen studies with 23 cross-sectional networks based on the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) assessments of clinical and community samples were examined using centrality scores. Twelve cross-sectional networks based on the PHQ and GAD-7 assessments were examined using bridge centrality scores. We found substantial variability between study samples and network features. ‘Sad mood’, ‘Uncontrollable worry’, and ‘Worrying too much’ were the most central symptoms, while ‘Sad mood’, ‘Restlessness’, and ‘Motor disturbance’ were the most frequent bridge centrality symptoms. In addition, the connection between ‘Sleep’ and ‘Fatigue’ was the most frequent edge for the depressive and anxiety symptoms network model. Conclusion: Central symptoms, bridge symptoms and robust edges identified in this systematic review can be viewed as potential intervention targets. We also identified gaps in the literature and future directions for network analysis of comorbid depression and anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 18 Jan 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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