These Are the Biggest Risk Factors for Anxiety

New research highlights five circumstances that up your risk.

Do you ever feel like you worry a lot more than those around you? While some degree of anxiousness is totally normal, for some people the feeling can become unbearable and might even indicate that you have an anxiety disorder. Now, a new research review published in Brain and Behavior sheds some light on who might be most at risk: women and people under the age of 35, in particular, according to the findings.

For the study, researchers from the University of Cambridge analyzed 48 existing studies to get a more complete understanding of who experiences anxiety across the globe. “Anxiety disorders can make life extremely difficult for some people,” study author Olivia Remes said in a statement. “It is important for our health services to understand how common they are and which groups of people are at greatest risk.”

Researchers categorized anxiety disorders as “excessive worry, fear, and a tendency to avoid potentially stressful situations including social gatherings.” According to the study anxiety is most likely to manifest as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or phobia. Though less common, anxiety can also manifest as panic disorder, a disorder that affects 1.2 percent of the population globally. Here, the five groups of people who are most likely to develop anxiety during their lifetime.  



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Women are almost twice as likely to be affected by anxiety as their male peers, according to the research. They are also more likely to deal with anxiety throughout their lives. The findings were persistent across all socioeconomic classes. Pregnant women and new mothers were more likely to experience obsessive compulsive disorder than childless women and male peers.


People Under 35

According to the study, early adulthood is the time period with the highest peak in experiencing anxiety symptoms. The trend exists disproportionately for young individuals across the globe.


People in Western Europe and North America

Higher rates of anxiety disorders are found among those living in Western Europe and North America, where almost eight out of every 100 people are affected by anxiety.


People Living With Another Illness

The study found that 1 in 10 people with cardiovascular disease and 1 in 3 people with multiple sclerosis experience anxiety. Up to 79 percent of those battling cancer also suffer from anxiety. Notably, too, up to 20.4 percent of women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) are diagnosed with anxiety. Women with diabetes, too, are almost twice as likely as men to meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder.



According to the study, up to 76.5 percent of caregivers of older people with cognitive impairment and up to half of spouses of cancer patients suffer from anxiety. In both cases, caregivers were more likely to suffer anxiety than those who were ill.

Need help managing your worries? Here, a psychologist gives his best advice on how to cope.