Having a broader waistline may increase a woman’s chances of developing anxiety, a study has found.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders, and it is more likely to affect women, especially middle-aged women.
Although anxiety can be caused by many factors, the study suggests that the amount of abdominal fat a woman has could increase her chances of developing anxiety.
Everyone is familiar with the term “stress eating” that, among other things, can lead to a thicker waistline.
The study, published in the journal Menopause, analysed data from more than 5,580 middle-aged Latin American women.
This study is the first of its kind known to use waist-to-height ratio as the specific link to anxiety. Waist-to-height ratio has been shown to be the indicator that best assesses cardiometabolic risk.
A general guideline is that a woman is considered obese if her waist measures more than half of her height.
Researchers found that 58 per cent of the study population were postmenopausal, and 61.3 per cent reported experiencing anxiety.
The study found that those women in the middle and upper thirds of waist-to-height ratios were significantly more likely to have anxiety, and those in the upper third were more likely to actually display signs of anxiety compared with women in the lower two-thirds.
Anxiety is a concern because it is linked to heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, respiratory disorders, and drug abuse, among other documented medical problems.
Research has shown an increase in the frequency of anxiety in women during midlife, likely as a result of decreased levels of estrogen, which has a neuroprotective role.
“Hormone changes may be involved in the development of both anxiety and abdominal obesity because of their roles in the brain as well as in fat distribution,” said JoAnn Pinkerton, US-based non profit North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
This study provides valuable insights for healthcare providers treating middle-aged women, because it implies that waist-to-height ratio could be a good marker for evaluating patients for anxiety,” said Pinkerton.