Women, young adults at a higher risk of anxiety: Study

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Women as well as young adults are twice as likely to experience anxiety as men, a new study says.

Anxiety disorder — the most common mental health problem — is often manifest as excessive worry, fear and a tendency to avoid potentially stressful situations, including social gatherings.

“Anxiety disorders can make life extremely difficult for some people and it is important for our health services to understand how common they are and which groups of people are at greatest risk,” said lead author Olivia Remes at the University of Cambridge.

The findings showed that nearly one in ten adults (10.9 per cent) with heart disease were affected by Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), but women were almost twice as likely to be affected as men. Also, women affected with heart diseases, cancer and even pregnancy showed a higher level of anxiety than men. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) — an anxiety disorder characterised by obsessions and compulsions — was in general, found only one in a hundred, but the proportion with the disorder was double in pregnant women and slightly higher in the period immediately after birth.

“Anxiety disorders can also lead to impairment, disability and the risk of suicide,” added Louise Lafortune, research associate at the University of Cambridge.

Further, the level of anxiety among young individuals — both male and female — under 35 years of age were found to be disproportionate. In addition, people from Western Europe and North America were found more likely to suffer from anxiety than people from other cultures. “By clubbing all this data together, we see that these disorders are common across all groups, but women and young people are disproportionately affected. Also, people who have a chronic health condition are at a particular risk, adding a double burden on their lives,” Remes noted.

For the study — published in the journal Brain and Behavior — the team studied 48 scientific reviews that showed data between 1990 and 2010. The overall proportion of people affected remained largely unchanged, with around four out of every 100 experiencing anxiety.