hscicHospital admissions for anxiety increase with age and were highest among older women last year, according to annual figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

In the 12 months to November 2013 almost 3 out of 10 anxiety admissions were women aged 60 and over (2,440 out of 8,720 recorded), with 65 to 69 the most common age group of female patient admissions at 8%, the HSCIC found.

The most common age group for male patient admissions was 45 to 49. While, these results remained similar to the previous 12 months, overall hospital admissions for anxiety were down 2% from 8,930 to 8,720.

Further reading: 'Bedroom tax taking toll on anxiety levels, charity say'  

Nowhere else to turn
Yet the overall trend in admissions by age showed that anxiety admissions increased with age and there needs to be increased support to reduce admissions further, according to Sam Challis from mental health charity Mind.

"Hospitalisation in itself should be a last resort when it comes to mental health treatment," he said.

"It is an indication that a patient has reached crisis point, that they have nowhere else to turn and need urgent help."

The report, drawn from the HSCIC's monthly hospital episode statistic (HES)[link http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB13589], also showed that for all hospital admissions for anxiety or stress between December 2012 and November 2013:
- Women accounted for 3 in 5 anxiety admissions (62%)
- More than half of stress admissions were men (55%)
- Almost 9 out of 10 anxiety cases (89%) and 8 out of 10 stress cases (78%) were emergency admissions.
- One in 5 anxiety cases were diagnosed with high blood pressure (19%) and 1 in 4 stress admissions had a personal history of self-harm (25%).
- Merseyside Area Team had the highest rate of admissions for anxiety and stress and Thames Valley Area Team had the lowest rate of admissions for both conditions.

More likely to have physical health problems
"We know that when women or men have physical health problems they are much more likely to be anxious or depressed,” said Dr Jennifer Wild, consultant psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry.

"That age group is much more likely to have physical health problems – it may be breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, or there could be mobility problems. Sleep problems also become more common and we know that when people can’t sleep they are much more likely to become depressed.

"It’s difficult to take things at face value without having some idea about what’s going on physically. In that age group there may be changes in financial income due to retirement. They may have changes in income and they may have anxiety around not working."

Further reading: 'Restless sleep causes pain in older people'

Very real need for early intervention
While anxiety was highest in older people, the statistics showed that younger age groups tend to be more likely to be admitted for stress with girls aged 15-19 accounting for 306 cases last year, compared to 172 boys of the same age.

Challis added: "The fact hospital admissions for stress were amongst the highest in women age 15 to 19, underlines the concerning scale of severe mental health problems amongst young girls.

"These figures emphasise the very real need for early intervention. Schools and colleges, as well as family and those in a child's wider support network, need to recognise the role they can play.

"Creating a culture of openness where young people feel able to talk about their mental health is vital, to ensure they get the right support and at the right time. In turn, appropriate services must be accessible, long before hospitalisation becomes a necessity."

The overall number of admissions for stress fell by almost 14% on the previous 12 months, from 5,610 to 4,840, but the number of admissions of girls aged 15 to 19 remained almost the same, dropping by 1 to 295.