Are you suffering from anxiety? The odds are you are a woman or a young person under age 35, according to a new study.

Researchers from Cambridge University estimated that four out of every 100 people suffer anxiety — women are nearly twice as likely to experience it as men, while younger individuals and those with health problems are also at greater risk.

The international review of 48 studies discovered that over 60 million were afflicted by anxiety disorders annually in the European Union. But North America appeared to be worse off, with eight out of 100 people suffering anxiety. Least affected is East Asia at three in 100.

“There has been a lot of focus on depression – which is important – but anxiety is equally important and debilitating,” warned author Olivia Remes in a BBC report. “It can lead to the development of other diseases and psychiatric disorders, increase the risk for suicide and is associated with high costs to society.”

An anxiety disorder covers feelings of fear, worry, and unease — extending over a long period and becoming rather overwhelming. It can take its toll on everyday life and lead to increased blood pressure, nausea, and interrupted sleep.

Women were seen to have doubled men’s risk for anxiety, which Remes said could be due to hormonal fluctuations or the population’s vulnerability to stress in general. It could also be women’s traditional childrearing role.

“[E]volutionarily speaking, they may be more prone to worrying. And when they’re exposed to stress, they’re more likely to develop anxiety,” Remes told Medical Daily.

The authors also emphasized that women are more likely to employ emotion-based coping techniques, tending to think more about what happened — something that raises anxiety levels. Men, on the other hand, have the tendency to cope through problem-solving.

Groups with a higher likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder include not just women and young individuals under age 35, but also people living in North America or Western countries.

They also comprise those with health challenges, with 32 percent of multiple sclerosis patients and up to 23 percent of cancer patients, for instance, having the condition. Pregnant women, too, were found prone to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) before and right after childbirth.

On the other hand, anxiety seemed to be low among indigenous cultures, drug users, sex workers, and LGBT people.

According to Remes, prevention is key because a lasting and successful recovery is difficult to achieve, with a lot of people receiving treatment eventually relapsing.

It is also important to discuss treatment options with one’s doctor, using self-help books and online resources, regularly exercising, and avoiding smoking and excess alcohol intake.

Psychological treatments such as mindfulness may also turn one’s focus on the present and away from negative thoughts and behaviors. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a group-centered method where patients are encouraged to alter how they feel and think about their experiences, as well as learn skills that help lower the chances of anxiety or depressive episodes returning.

The findings were detailed in the journal Brain and Behavior.

Photo: Favi Santos | Flickr

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.