According to a new study in the UK, women below 35 years of age in developed countries are at the greatest risk of anxiety. The review of existing scientific literature led by the University of Cambridge found that women are almost twice as likely to experience anxiety as men and young individuals, both male and female, the under-35 group are disproportionately affected.
It also found that the people from Western Europe and North America are more likely to suffer from anxiety than people from other cultures. The review also highlighted how anxiety disorders often provide a double burden on people experiencing other health-related problems, such as heart disease, cancer and even pregnancy.
Researchers carried out a global review of systematic reviews. Out of over 1,200 reviews, the researchers identified 48 reviews that matched their criteria for inclusion. They showed that people with other health conditions are often far more likely to also experience anxiety disorders. For example, around one in 10 adults with cardiovascular disease and living in Western countries are affected by generalised anxiety disorder, with women showing higher anxiety levels than men. People living with multiple sclerosis are most affected as many as one in three patients also have an anxiety disorder.
According to first author Olivia Remes, “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.
“By collecting all these 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.”
However, the analysis also showed that data on some populations was lacking or of poor quality. This was particularly true for marginalised communities, such as indigenous cultures in North America, Australia and New Zealand, and drug users, street youth and sex workers.
Anxiety disorders also represent an important issue among people identifying as lesbian, gay and bisexual; however, there are not enough studies in these populations, and those that have looked at it are of variable quality.
The study is published in the journal Brain and Behavior.