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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

Study Links Anxiety, Nervousness to Suicide

Higher Suicide Risk for Men Reporting Anxiety Than for Women
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Aug. 10, 2005 -- In a Swedish study, people who reported feeling anxious and nervous were more likely to attempt suicide in the next five to 10 years.

The study included more than 34,500 men and women living in Sweden. Researchers asked if they were bothered by anxiety, nervousness, or uneasiness -- and if so, how troublesome those emotions were.

The researchers included Gunilla Ringbäck Weitoft of the Centre for Epidemiology at the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare. The findings appear in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Study's Findings

The vast majority of men and women reported no such emotional problems.

Yet those who reported severe problems of nervousness, anxiety, and uneasiness had about double to triple the risk of death during the study period. Only 2% of the men and 3.6% of the women reported severe problems with anxiety, uneasiness, or nervousness.

Men who had reported severe problems with anxiety, nervousness, or unease were nine times more likely to attempt suicide over the next five years than men who didn't report such problems.

Women reporting severe anxiousness, nervousness, or unease were 3.4 times as likely to attempt suicide as those who didn't report those problems in the survey.

The researchers made adjustments for long-standing illnesses that those people may also have been facing.

Rising Anxiety

Anxiety, nervousness, and unease have become more commonly reported in Sweden over the last 20 years or so, write the researchers.

What that means isn't totally clear. Are Swedish people more anxious? Or are they just more willing to admit it? Rising reports of anxiety may be an "alarm signal that society should take seriously," write the researchers.

It's also not certain why nervousness and anxiety were more strongly linked to suicide attempts in men than in women. Are women more open about those feelings, or do such emotions affect men and women differently?

Besides calling for more studies, the researchers urge health care workers to "pay attention to patient anxiety." They don't mention if Swedish and U.S. suicide patterns are similar.

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