London: Women living in poor areas in Britain are almost twice as likely to develop clinical anxiety as women in richer areas, finds a new study to assess the impact of socio-economic factors on mental health.
However, whether men lived in poorer or richer areas made no difference to their levels of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
"Women living in poor neighbourhoods were at an almost two times higher risk of developing GAD than those living in less deprived neighbourhoods," said lead researcher Olivia Remes from Cambridge University.
"This link between deprivation and mental illness, however, does not appear to exist in men. This is intriguing," she added.
Generalised anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental health conditions in modern society.
The study, of over 20,000 men and women in Norfolk, also found that men who perceive themselves to be in poor health are over five times more likely to develop anxiety than men who perceive their health to be good.
However, women who believe they are in poor health are only three times more likely to develop GAD.
In general anxiety decreased significantly with age, in both men and women.
"Our study also showed that people with poor self-perceived health were at a high risk for developing GAD. It is unclear yet why the link between self-perceived health and GAD should exist," Remes said.
The study was part of the much larger EPIC study, which is a huge European study looking at the relationship between chronic diseases and the way people live their lives.
Using detailed health and lifestyle questionnaires, they were able to unpick some of the factors which contributed to poor health over the 15-year period of the study.