Anxiety : A Modern Malaise
Updated: Jan 3
Research finds women, young people and those with health and mental health conditions most likely to be affected.
Anxiety disorders are a group of psychological disorders characterised by excessive worry, an increased level of arousal, apprehension, tension and fear which is debilitating - they cause distress and interfere with the person’s ability to lead a normal life.
Some anxiety disorders are generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, panic disorder (panic attacks), phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
WHO IS AFFECTED BY ANXIETY?
A recent piece of research undertook a global review of anxiety disorders, combining 48 of the highest quality reviews of the prevalence of anxiety. This was published in Brain and Behaviour, a respected peer reviewed clinical journal.
The research found that:
Over 60 million people in EU affected by anxiety disorders in any given year - the most prevalent mental health condition.
Around 4 in 100 people experience an anxiety disorder.
Across the globe the prevalence of anxiety discarders in 1990 was similar to that in 2005 and 2010.
Women are almost twice as likely to be affected as men by anxiety disorders.
Young people are also more affected than other age groups.
There is a higher prevalence of anxiety in those with chronic and long-term health conditions. For example, women with polycystic ovary syndrome, those with cancer (with increasing occurrence in the later stages of the disease), long-term cancer survivors and their spouses, those with cardiovascular diseases, COPD, far-advanced end-stage respiratory disease, acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome, neurological conditions (particularly multiple sclerosis - MS).
There is higher prevalence among those with mental health conditions, particularly bipolar depression, while those with schizophrenia are more likely to experience OCD in particular.
Those who experience addictions - substance misuse, pathological gambling, and compulsive internet use - may also more likely to experience anxiety disorders, although results for substance abuse were mixed.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Experiencing an anxiety disorder means the person is at increased risk for the development of other anxiety and mood disorders and substance abuse.
Untreated anxiety has been associated with significant costs to the personal and society, e.g. decreased work productivity, unemployment, impaired social relationships and frequent primary and acute healthcare visits.
THE MOST COMMON FORMS OF ANXIETY
Most common forms of anxiety over peoples lifetimes are generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and specific phobia and the least common is panic disorder.
THE AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS
The authors conclude that anxiety disorders are increasingly being recognised as significant causal agents of poor health and major contributors to health service use across the globe.
O. Remes, C. Brayne, R. van der Linde, L. Lafortune. A systematic review of reviews on the prevalence of anxiety disorders in adult populations, Brain and Behavior, 2016; 6(7), e00497, doi: 10.1002/brb3.497