Health complaints change over the decades. What worries us at 25 is very different than our concerns at 40. We asked the HuffPost Lifestyle Facebook community to tell us what they worried about most and then conferred with experts. Here's what we learned. (Find all ages here.)
We asked: What is your biggest health worry?
You answered: "Mental health (anxiety, depression)." -- Facebook user Katie Carnevale-Walsh
Anxiety affects every age group and demographic
The results of an informal HuffPost Healthy Living survey showed that many of our 30-something readers are living with anxiety or depression. While the 30s can be a stressful decade -- particularly for individuals who are simultaneously raising children and caring for their aging parents -- there's a stark difference between an overwhelming day (or week, month or year) and living with an anxiety disorder.
"We all experience anxiety in some capacity," Allison Baker, a psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center told The Huffington Post last year. "It helps us prepare for speaking in public and it motivates us to practice or rehearse; everyone can relate to what that experience is like. An anxiety disorder is when those run-of-the-mill butterflies become a chronic daily experience."
Chronic anxiety and panic disorders affect nearly one out of every five adults in the United States, nearly 40 million in total, and can trigger other health conditions, such as a weakened immune system, digestive troubles and even changes in the brain.
Reaching out for help
So, what can you do? For starters, know that you don't have to suffer alone. Psychotherapy is an anxiety-management method that works for some people. Others additionally benefit from medication.
For many individuals, even those successfully managing their anxiety, one of the most draining aspects of living with mental illness is the stigma that surrounds it. Contrary to popular opinion, anxiety is not something you can control -- and you can't just "calm down." If someone confides to you that she suffers from anxiety or panic attacks, it's important to afford that person the same level of empathy that you would if she had a physical ailment.
"Many people believe that anxiety isn't something worth assessing," Baker said. "But... if untreated, it can be associated with an increased risk with depression."
Understanding depression's magnitude
More than 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
Left untreated, depression is a serious health problem that can put an individual's life and relationships at risk. The disease results in one million deaths by suicide each year and is the leading cause of disability.
While depression affects people in every country and at every income level, the persistent stigma surrounding mental illness and an unevenly distributed number of trained mental health professionals create persistent barriers to treatment for many individuals. As it stands, fewer than 50 percent of people affected by depression receive treatment, and in some countries fewer than 10 percent individuals suffering from the disease get help.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Beyond anxiety and depression, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists put together an informative checklist of screenings, immunizations and evaluations that are important for women in their 30s.
The Cleveland Clinic's Health Maintenance Guidelines for women is another great resource.
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