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Evolution could be responsible for higher anxiety rates

Researchers say current generations aren’t equipped to handle anxiety as well as our ancestors

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Photo (c) MilanMarkovic - Getty Images
As more young people continue to struggle with anxiety disorders, experts have started analyzing potential contributing factors. One recent study conducted by researchers from Tohoku University found that evolution could play a role. 

According to the researchers, the way our neurotransmitters function could vary greatly from those of our grandparents or great-grandparents, and those previous generations could have been better equipped biologically to handle anxiety disorders than present generations. 

This study began with the researchers dissecting the vesicular monoamine transporter 1 (VMAT1), a gene that handles all of the brain’s neurotransmitters, ensures proper brain function, and continues to evolve over the course of generations. 

After analyzing the VMAT1 across different generations, the researchers learned that a specific mutation in the VMAT1 gene, which is more common among modern populations, is associated with a higher risk of mental health concerns, like anxiety and depression. 

The study revealed that earlier generations were less likely to experience this manipulation to the VMAT1, which is why the incidence of mental health concerns was lower for older generations. 

Fighting anxiety

As mental health diagnoses continue to increase, especially among the youngest population, it’s important for consumers to know the options that are available to them and their young ones to help keep anxiety and depression symptoms at bay. 

Researchers have recently found that air pollution, too much screen time, and being too hard on yourself are all potential triggers of anxiety or depression, and those who struggle with their mental health should be mindful of these and other factors that could contribute to worsening symptoms. 

However, other studies have touted the power behind proper food choices, as following a diet higher in fruits and vegetables, while also limiting junk food intake, can be simple first steps for consumers to boost their mental health. 

“Perhaps the time has come for us to take a closer look at the role of diet in mental health, because it could be that healthy diet choices contribute to mental health,” said researcher Jim. E Banta. “More research is needed before we can answer definitively, but the evidence seems to be pointing in that direction.”

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