Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

Font Size

Women: More Panic Attacks in Midlife

Women's Role in Society Puts Them at Greater Risk
WebMD Health News

Sept. 22, 2003 -- After age 50, a woman is at high risk for panic attacks -- especially if she has faced stressful life events and health problems.

That's the finding from a new study in this week's Archives of Internal Medicine.

Panic attacks are a distinctive form of anxiety more common in women than men.

A full-blown panic attack is defined as an attack of sudden fear for no apparent reason, anxiety, or extreme discomfort.

However, whether panic attacks are more likely to happen in the menopausal years has never been studied, writes researcher Jordan W. Smoller, MD, ScD, a psychiatric researcher with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

"To our knowledge, this study is the largest survey of the prevalence ... of panic attacks in postmenopausal women," Smoller adds.

Serious Life Events Trigger Panic Attacks

His study involved more than 3,000 women -- between age 50 and 79 -- who completed detailed questionnaires on an assortment of heart disease, respiratory, migraine, panic, and other symptoms; serious life events that occurred in the previous year; and limitations that panic attacks had on their lives.

Researchers found:

  • 18% had experienced panic attacks in the past six months.
  • 13% had full-blown panic attacks that impaired their social activities and daily lives.
  • 7% had limited-symptom panic attacks (rapid or irregular heartbeat only).
  • 14% of full-blown panic attacks. -- The majority happened to women between age 50 and 59.
  • Women were nearly three times more likely to have full-blown panic attacks if their income was less than $20,000 a year.
  • One-third of women who had full-blown panic attacks also suffered from depression symptoms and women with defined depression were also significantly more likely to suffer from full- blown panic attacks.
  • Women with emphysema, asthma, heart disease, migraines with aura, and thyroid problems were more likely to report full- blown panic attacks.
  • Stressful life events factored strongly in panic attacks. Women who had five or more events in the past year were seventimes more likely to have full-blown panic attacks.

A woman's marital status and education level did not make an appreciable difference in whether she had panic attacks or not. Also, whether she had taken hormone replacement therapy did not make a difference, Smoller reports.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

young leukemia patient
Unhappy couple
embarrassed woman
Phobias frightened eyes
stressed boy in classroom
Distressed teen girl in dramatic lighting
man hiding with phone
chain watch