Home » News » For Middle-Aged Women, Waist Size Linked to Risk of Anxiety
For Middle-Aged Women, Waist Size Linked to Risk of Anxiety

For Middle-Aged Women, Waist Size Linked to Risk of Anxiety

Anxiety is a common mental health disorder which can be triggered by a variety of factors. New research suggests that the amount of abdominal fat a woman has during middle-age could increase her chances of developing anxiety.

Experts have known that anxiety is more likely to affect women and that “stress eating,” among other things, can lead to a thicker waistline.

In the study, published online in the journal Menopause, researchers analyzed data from more than 5,580 middle-aged Latin American women (mean age, 49.7 years).

The investigators sought to determine whether greater abdominal fat (defined as waist-to-height ratio) could increase a woman’s chances of developing anxiety.

Although this is not the first time this relationship has been examined, 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.

The article reports that 58 percent of the study population were postmenopausal, and 61.3 percent reported experiencing anxiety.

Investigators also 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 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. Providers believe this probably 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 Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, North American Menopause Society (NAMS) executive director.

“This study provides valuable insights for health care providers treating middle-aged women, because it implies that waist-to-height ratio could be a good marker for evaluating patients for anxiety.”

Source: NAMS/EurekAlert

For Middle-Aged Women, Waist Size Linked to Risk of Anxiety

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). For Middle-Aged Women, Waist Size Linked to Risk of Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 8 Mar 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.