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Anxiety tied to Higher Ulcer Risk

Update Date: Aug 15, 2014 03:52 PM EDT

A little bit of anxiety is a normal and inevitable part of life. When anxiety gets unmanageable, it can disrupt everyday life. In a new study, researchers examined the link between anxiety and ulcers. They discovered that people suffering from anxiety disorders have higher prevalence and incidence rates of ulcer.

Ulcers are holes or breaks that occur in the upper part of the small intestine or stomach. They can lead to health complications such as bleeding, perforation and even death. Even though ulcer prevalence has been falling in the United States with roughly 500,000 annual cases, the researchers wanted to examine the potential causes of ulcers. People used to believe that high levels of stress caused ulcers. However, more research suggested that ulcers could be caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori.

In the study, the researcher reviewed self-reported data on over 2,000 adults. The participants had completed two Midlife Development in the United States Survey. The first one took place from 1994 to 1995 and the second one was administered from 2004 to 2006. The team focused on the link between anxiety and ulcer prevalence.

The researchers accounted for many variables, which included child abuse, secondhand smoke exposure, cigarette smoke, drug use, neuroticism, age, marital status, gender, education and income. The researchers found a relationship between anxiety and ulcers. They did not identify what factors could be responsible for this link. They also found that ulcers occurred when there was no bacterium present. In some situations, when Helicobacter pylori was present, there were no ulcers.

"As a team, we specialize in depression and anxiety disorders. In keeping with a biopsychosocial framework, we believe that the etiology of ulcer is unlikely to be attributed to a single cause and is likely complex and multi-factorial," said corresponding author Farah Taha, M.A., in the Department of Psychology at Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY). "There are individuals with ulcers who don't have the bacterium, and there are people who have the bacterium who don't have ulcers."

The team aims to discover any underlying mechanisms that might be driving the relationship between anxiety and ulcers. Taha added, according to Medical Xpress, "We hope this may lead to the development of prevention protocols."

The study, "Anxiety disorders and risk of self-reported ulcer: A 10- year longitudinal study among US adults," was published in General Hospital Psychiatry.

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