In Brief

Women almost twice as likely to experience anxiety than men

Under-35s and people with health conditions also particularly vulnerable to the disorder

Women are almost twice as likely to experience anxiety than men and the under-35s are particularly vulnerable to the disorder, according to new research.

A study by the University of Cambridge suggests that people with health conditions – including cancer, multiple sclerosis, those who have suffered a stroke and even those dealing with pregnancy – have a higher chance of experiencing symptoms than others.

The analysis calls for a shift in focus to target these marginalised groups with more resources provided to study the disorder, which is estimated to affect about four per cent of the global population.

The findings could help identify those at risk and allow groups to ensure that the necessary support is available, The Guardian reports.

Research leader Olivia Remes stressed the importance for health services to understand how common such conditions are and which groups are at greatest risk.

For example, while the analysis shows that up to a third of MS and stroke patients have an anxiety disorder, this number increases dramatically (up to 79 per cent) for cancer patients in the later stages of the disease.

Pregnant women were also found to suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. The illness usually only affects one per cent of the general population, but the proportion is double in pregnant women and slightly higher in the period following birth.

While, as the BBC points out and Remes admits, it is true that it is difficult to know whether this is due to the administration of certain medication or whether the trend is simply down to the worry of being sick, help should be provided and specifically targeted.

Published in the journal Brain and Behaviour, the global review of 48 studies found that more than 60 million people in the European Union were affected by anxiety disorders every year.

The study also found that people from Western Europe and North America are more likely to suffer than those from other cultures.

Professor Carol Brayne, the director of the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, added that data about marginalised groups is hard to find and gaps needed to be filled in order for a "greater understanding of how such evidence can help reduce individual and population burdens".

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