A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge found that women are almost twice as likely as men to suffer anxiety, Business Insider reports.
The research team reviewed studies on the demographics of people with anxiety around the world. The results showed that women and people in Europe and North America are disproportionately affected by anxiety.
Anxiety disorders can cause restlessness, excessive fear, muscle tension, decreased productivity, and other symptoms that adversely impact daily life.
Roughly four percent of the population has an anxiety disorder, making it one of the most common mental health conditions globally. Employers and the health care industry spend more than $42 billion each year due to the costs of treating anxiety and the decreased productivity and attendance of employees with the condition.
Women may be more likely to suffer anxiety than men because of differences in biology – namely brain chemistry and hormonal changes.
A large factor in this differentiation is female reproductive events, which have been linked to hormonal changes, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Pregnancy has been linked to OCD due to the increase in estrogen and progesterone that occurs. OCD is a specific anxiety disorder that involves distressing and repetitive thoughts, obsessions, and behaviors.
Women may also be more susceptible to anxiety because of the way they process and respond to life events and stressors. Generally, women are more likely to ruminate while men are more likely to problem-solve or use other active coping mechanisms. Since rumination can increase anxiety, this difference is seen as a factor in the increased likelihood women have when it comes to having anxiety.
Beyond biological and coping differences, women are also more likely to be physically, mentally, and sexually abused than men. Abuse is commonly linked to anxiety disorders.
There is less understanding on why people in Western cultures have anxiety more than non-Western cultures. One theory is that the Western-created criteria and instruments used to measure anxiety are not accounting for different cultural presentations of anxiety.
While this question should be further explored, this study shows that anxiety is costly in regards to both economics and human suffering. It also shows that women and citizens of the Western world are adversely impacted.
This knowledge makes a large difference in understanding anxiety, raising awareness to the condition, and treating it.