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Women, young adults and the chronically ill are particularly often affected by anxiety
Many people suffer from anxiety disorders, which put a lot of strain on them in everyday life and can also cause physical complaints. Scientists at the University of Cambridge have now found that women are almost twice as likely to experience such fears as men. People in Western Europe and North America also suffer from fear far more often than people from other cultures, according to the Cambridge University.
According to the researchers, anxiety disorders usually manifest themselves in excessive worry, fear, and a tendency to avoid potentially stressful situations, including social contacts. They are among the most common mental health problems in the western world, according to the University of Cambridge. In their current study, the scientists at the British university evaluated numerous previous studies on anxiety disorders and found that women are affected almost twice as often as men. Young people - both men and women - also disproportionately suffered from fear under the age of 35. The researchers have published their results in the journal "Brain and Behavior".
60 million Europeans suffer from anxiety disorders
According to the researchers, more than 60 million people in the European Union are affected by anxiety disorders each year. Numerous studies have researched possible causes for the frequent occurrence of anxiety disorders and tried to identify certain risk groups. The scientists from the Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge have now carried out a global review of the available studies and filtered a total of 48 from over 1,200 papers, the data of which they found to be reliable enough. Based on this work, student author Olivia Remes and colleagues carried out an analysis of the risk among different population groups worldwide.
There was no increase in fear
The scientists come to the conclusion that the proportion of people affected remained largely unchanged between 1990 and 2010. Around four out of 100 people experience anxiety, with the highest proportion of people with anxiety occurring in North America, where almost eight out of 100 people are affected, the researchers report. The lowest proportion is found in East Asia, where fewer than three out of 100 people have these mental health problems. In North Africa and the Middle East, only 5 out of 100 people were affected despite the difficult living conditions.
Chronic diseases increase the risk
The researchers found an above-average level of concern not only among women and young adults, but also among people with known chronic pre-existing conditions. For example, people with cardiovascular diseases (diseases of the cardiovascular system) increasingly suffer from accompanying anxiety disorders, which in turn can have an effect on the cardiovascular system. Here fear becomes a double burden. Among the chronic diseases, anxiety was most common among patients with multiple sclerosis, the researchers report.
Which population groups are particularly at risk?
The study's co-author, Dr. Louise Lafortune of the Institute of Public Health at Cambridge University emphasized that anxiety disorders "affect a lot of people and lead to impairment, disability and risk of suicide." However, despite the extensive research on the subject, there are still significant gaps in research. In this context, it is also important to determine which groups of people are most at risk, adds Olivia Remes. The analysis carried out shows that the data for many population groups are missing or of poor quality. However, these could be the groups that are particularly at risk.
Professor Carol Brayne, director of the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, explains that even with the fairly large number of studies on anxiety disorders, it is difficult to find data on marginalized groups. By identifying the data gaps with the present study, targeted research can now follow, in order to further reduce the general and individual risk in the future, concludes Prof. Brayne. (fp)