Health: Women More Vulnerable to Stress

Society | March 7, 2003, Friday // 00:00

The biochemistry of women's brains makes them more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, researchers have found. The findings were published in the journal Psychiatric Genetics.

Women have lower levels of a brain chemical that controls anxiety. Having less of the chemical, an enzyme called COMT, appears to make a person more anxious and highly strung.

And women who have a particular version of the gene that makes the enzyme are most likely to worry most of all.

Scientists found that women with one particular variation of the gene - called Val 158Met - scored high in tests that measured their anxiety levels.

Scans of electrical activity in the brain also showed signs that they had an anxious temperament.

Everybody inherits two copies of the gene - one from each parent.

Women who inherited two copies of the Val 158Met gene were the greatest worriers of all.

However, men who had the same genetic make-up did not appear to be extra anxious.

The study highlighted the fact that all women - not just those with the gene variant - were bigger worriers than men.

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