Balancing the stresses of work and motherhood is enough to cause anyone’s stress levels to rise.
But it seems the pressures of everyday life are causing women’s anxiety levels to increase – while improving their overall satisfaction in life.
Today, official figures have revealed men are gaining on women in the happiness stakes.
The new report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) assessed the wellbeing of the nation.
It found women generally feel more worthwhile than men but are more prone to attacks of anxiety.
Experts said this was most likely caused by numerous factors, such as women being more socially connected and involved than men.
Happiness levels of men and women are roughly the same with men having gained headway on women, according to an Office for National statistics survey
Overall, it blamed a lull in national happiness on slowed economic growth and world events such as the refugee crisis and numerous terror attacks around the world.
The ‘personal wellbeing in the UK 2015-16’ survey revealed although people are healthier and wealthier, than ever, the mood levels don’t reflect this.
It is the first time since the surveys began in 2011 that wellbeing rates have plateaued – and men and women are scoring similarly.
While previous surveys have found women were ‘significantly happier’ than men, this year the difference was virtually none existent.
But women are still more prone to anxiety disorders – defined by excessive fear, restlessness, and muscle tension – are debilitating, disabling, and can increase the risk for depression and suicide.
Today’s report also reveals those living in London are the most miserable with their lives in the UK while Northern Ireland has the highest rates.
In the survey a large sample of UK adults, aged 16 and over, were asked the following four questions:
- Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
- To what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
- How happy did you feel yesterday?
- How anxious did you feel yesterday?
People were asked to respond on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is ”not at all” and 10 is ”completely”.
Every year until now, the scores have improved which researchers previously linked to economic improvements as the country gradually pulled out from recession.
In the latest results, average scores across the board were 7.7 for life satisfaction, 7.8 for feeling that what you do in life is worthwhile, 7.5 out of 10 for happiness the previous day and 2.9 out of 10 for anxiety.
This table shows how anxiety levels of men (blue) and women (orange) differed in the last financial year in terms of severity levels, starting with very low levels (left) and going through to high (right). It shows approximately 41 per cent of men had very low levels of anxiety compared to 39 per cent of women. Meanwhile, 21 per cent of women had high levels of anxiety compared to just 17 per cent of men
The chart shows how happiness ratings for both men (blue) and women (orange) have increased since the surveys started in 2011. They have also both levelled off and grown closer together in 2015/16
It comes as life expectancy continues to rise while unemployment levels are at a near eight-year low and below pre-recession levels for the first time.
The employment rate for those aged 16 to 64 in the three months to March 2016, was at its highest levels since comparable records began in 1971.
But while women’s overall wellbeing seems to be improving, many are still plagued by anxiety.
Recently, Olivia Remes from the department of health at Cambridge University, explored why women are more prone to the disorder.
WHY FEMALES ARE TWICE AS LIKELY BE ANXIOUS THAN MEN
Anxiety disorders – defined by excessive fear, restlessness, and muscle tension – are debilitating, disabling, and can increase the risk for depression and suicide.
They are some of the most common mental health conditions around the world, affecting around four out of every 100 people and costing the health care system and job employers over US$42 billion each year.
People with anxiety are more likely to miss days from work and are less productive.
Young people with anxiety are also less likely to enter school and complete it – translating into fewer life chances.
Even though this evidence points to anxiety disorders as being important mental health issues, insufficient attention is being given to them by researchers, clinicians, and policy makers.
My team and I at the University of Cambridge wanted to find out who is most affected by anxiety disorders.
Women are more likely than men to suffer from anxiety. But a new report today also found they got more life satisfaction than men in the last year
To do this, we conducted a systematic review of studies that reported on the proportion of people with anxiety in a variety of contexts around the world, and used rigorous methods to retain the highest quality studies.
Our results showed women are almost twice as likely to suffer from anxiety as men, and people living in Europe and North America are disproportionately affected.
So why are women more prone?
It could be because of differences in brain chemistry and hormone fluctuations.
Reproductive events across a woman’s life are associated with hormonal changes, which have been linked to anxiety.
The surge in oestrogen and progesterone that occurs during pregnancy can increase the risk for obsessive compulsive disorder.
This is characterised by disturbing and repetitive thoughts, impulses and obsessions that are distressing and debilitating.
But in addition to biological mechanisms, women and men seem to experience and react to events in their life differently.
Women tend to be more prone to stress, which can increase their anxiety.
Also, when faced with stressful situations, women and men tend to use different coping strategies.
Women faced with life stressors are more likely to ruminate about them, which can increase their anxiety, while men engage more in active, problem-focused coping.
Other studies suggest that women are more likely to experience physical and mental abuse than men, and abuse has been linked to the development of anxiety disorders.