Women are nearly twice as likely to experience anxiety as men, and people of both sexes under 35 are more likely to be affected than older people, according research that combined evidence from 48 previous reviews of studies into the condition.

The researchers also found that those suffering from diseases including cancer, stroke and multiple sclerosis have a higher chance of experiencing symptoms of anxiety than healthy individuals. They say the research could help to identify those at risk of anxiety, and make sure support is available.

“So much research and so much focus has been around depression and, while that is an important disorder, so is anxiety,” said Olivia Remes, from Cambridge University, who led the research. “Anxiety can also lead to disability, impairment [and] it can increase the risk for suicide.”

It is estimated there were 8.2m cases of anxiety in the UK in 2013. Symptoms can include a feeling of dread, muscular tension, sweating and the avoidance of social situations.

The research, published in the journal Brain and Behaviour, examines data from 48 reviews to explore trends in anxiety across different groups of people, including those with chronic diseases, gamblers and pregnant women.

“It provides an indication of who is at risk from anxiety, who is most likely to develop it,” said Remes. “When we know who is most likely to have it, then we can better target our health service’s resources, interventions, screening…

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