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London - If you’re one of those women with a tendency to fret, here’s something else to start worrying about.
Women who are worriers have to work harder to perform simple tasks than men, and make more mistakes on difficult ones, researchers claim.
In a US study, those who suffered from anxiety had distracting thoughts that got in the way of them succeeding.
By contrast the men tested showed no signs of anxiety, and didn’t have to work so hard to achieve the same results.
The discovery could lead to better ways of identifying and treating anxiety problems, which affect women more than men.
Around one in six Britons suffer some form of anxiety.
Overall, 13 percent will develop it at some point in their lives, according to Anxiety UK.
A research team at Michigan State University enlisted the help of almost 150 college students, half of them women.
An electrode cap was used to measure their brain activity while they performed a simple task, which involved identifying the middle letter in a series of five-letter groups on a computer screen.
They were also asked to complete questionnaires rating how much and how often they worried.
Although the women who rated themselves as more anxious performed the same as the men on the tasks, researchers discovered their brains had to work harder at it. And as the test became more difficult, the anxious women did worse, suggesting that worrying got in the way of completing the task.
Girls who identified themselves as “big worriers” recorded high brain activity when they made mistakes during the test, according to the study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology.
Professor Jason Moser, who led the study, said the female hormone oestrogen may be driving the increased response in women. It is known to affect the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the front of the brain, the area that controls learning ability.
Professor Moser added: “Anxious girls’ brains have to work harder to perform tasks because they have distracting thoughts and worries.
“As a result their brains are being kind of burned out by thinking so much, which might set them up for difficulties in school.”
“We already know that anxious kids – and especially anxious girls – have a harder time in some academic subjects such as math.” - Daily Mail