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The stress factor that's costing the UK £10billion a year: Eight million Britons suffer from an anxiety disorder

Stress, panic and anxiety related to modern-life costs Britain almost £10billion a year, it has emerged.

A study by leading psychiatrists found that more than 8million men, women and children suffer from anxiety disorders a year – at a cost to the country of £9.8billion.

The figure includes cost of treatment and lost productivity and covers problems from stress to obsessive compulsive disorder.

It also includes people with phobias such as agoraphobia, a fear of open spaces that can leave people afraid to leave their home.

Cambridge University researcher Barbara Sahakian said that anxiety problems and depression can be exacerbated by the stresses and strains of modern life.

Worries about debt and job security can make matter worse.

She said: ‘Mental health disorders tend to increase in urban environments, partly due to the stress of urbanisation and the competiveness.

‘Debt is something that causes an increase in mental health disorders.’

Around half of the £9.805billion is spending on drugs and counselling and other psychological treatments. The rest goes on lost productivity, including sick days, early retirement and ‘presenteeism’ – or being at work but being hugely unproductive.

Professor Sahakian said that anxiety disorders are particularly costly because they are often chronic and so dog a person throughout their life.

They also often occur alongside other conditions such as depression.

The figures, which are for 2010, come from a study of the burden of brain disorders to the UK.

Overall, the 18 different conditions, from dementia and multiple sclerosis to headaches and alcoholism, cost the country an estimated £112billion a year.

This is more than the GDP of New Zealand.

Dementia was the most costly at almost £20billion a year – or almost a fifth of the total. Most of this money goes on nursing home care, rather than drugs and hospital treatment.

Schizophrenia and other ‘psychotic disorders’ are the next most expensive, with an annual cost of £14billion a year.