A young woman presses her temples, fighting anxious thoughts.

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A new paper from the journal Brain and Behavior suggested this week that around the world, young adults, and primarily women, are the most likely demographic to suffer from anxiety disorders. But not just are women more likely to have anxiety in general, they are more than twice as likely to develop the illness than men. Reasons for this could include differences in brain chemistry, hormonal fluctuations, or the ways men and women deal with stress.

“Our study shows which groups around the world are most likely to develop anxiety disorders, so that health service resources, screening and treatment efforts can be directed toewards these high-risk groups,” said Olivia Remes, lead author of the paper and a doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge.

Remes and the paper’s coauthors analyzed 48 different scientific papers on anxiety disorders from around the globe, looking at population and prevalence of anxiety from 1990 to 2015. The researchers found that those most likely to develop anxiety lived in the United States, while East Asia had the lowest amount of anxiety-sufferers. In general, four out of a hundred people around the world have anxiety. That’s not an insignificant number by any stretch of the imagination.

“Anxiety has not been given much importance in mental health research and in general,” Remes said. “There has been a lot of focus on depression, which is an important mental health issue, but anxiety is equally important. It is debilitating. It can lead to suicide and is associated with high costs to society.”

Factors that influence the development of anxiety can include inequalities among groups, like social and economic disparities between men and women or people of different generations. Pregnancy, addiction, and other health concerns can also play a part.

Remes added, “Our study helps to clarify and shed light on the following important issue: anxiety is common not only in people with serious chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, but it frequently develops in healthy, young people. Once it develops, it can lead to a host of negative outcomes.”

“Anxiety can develop in anyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or race, and it affects populations around the world.”