Research from Canada indicates that diet does play a role in anxiety disorders. A study led by a team from British Columbia’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University found that the chances of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder are higher among adults whose intake of fruits and vegetables is low. Specifically, it found that people who consumed fewer than three sources of fruits and vegetables daily had 24 percent higher odds of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than those who consumed more of these foods. The study also showed that when levels of total body fat exceeded 36 percent, chances of anxiety disorders increased by more than 70 percent. Study leader Karen Davison Ph.D. noted that increased body fat may be linked to greater inflammation, which may be associated with some anxiety disorders.
An estimated 10 percent of the global population suffers from anxiety disorders. They are the most common class of mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older every year. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada, one in four Canadians will have at least one episode of anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
In addition to diet and body composition, the Canadian study found that the prevalence of anxiety disorders was higher among women, affecting one in nine, compared to one in 15 men. They occurred among 13.9 percent of study participants who always had been single compared to only 7.8 percent of those living with a partner. Income also appeared to play a role – anxiety disorders occurred among one in five participants with household incomes under $20,000 per year, more than twice the rate among those whose income was higher.
Not surprisingly, the study found that anxiety disorders were five times more common among individuals with three or more health conditions, and that those reporting chronic pain had twice the prevalence as those who were pain free.
Immigrants to Canada were less likely to be affected than people born in the country. Senior author Esme Fuller-Thomson wrote that immigrants may face a myriad of challenges in resettling in a new country, “so it seems count-intuitive that they should have a lower likelihood of anxiety disorders than those born in Canada.” She suggested that potential immigrants with anxiety disorders may find relocation so anxiety producing that they would choose not to immigrate.
The study results came from analysis of data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, which included 26,991 adults between the ages of 45 and 85.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Karen M. Davison et al, “Nutritional Factors, Physical Health and Immigrant Status Are Associated with Anxiety Disorders among Middle-Aged and Older Adults: Findings from Baseline Data of The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA),” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, February 28, 2020