Increased prevalence of anxiety symptoms in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis

Fertil Steril. 2012 Jan;97(1):225-30.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.10.022. Epub 2011 Nov 27.


Objective: To perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that compared the prevalence of anxiety symptoms in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and control women.

Design: Meta-analysis and systematic review.

Setting: University practice.

Patient(s): Cross-sectional studies comparing PCOS subjects and geographically matched clearly defined non-PCOS control subjects with data on age and body mass index (BMI).

Intervention(s): Anxiety screening tool.

Main outcome measure(s): The primary analysis contrasted prevalence of anxiety. Cochrane Review Manager 5.0.24 software was used to construct forest plots comparing frequency of anxiety symptoms in case and control subjects.

Result(s): Of 613 screened articles, nine met our selection criteria for a systematic review and four were included in the meta-analysis. The prevalence of generalized anxiety symptoms was available in four studies and was significantly greater in PCOS subjects (42/206, 20.4%) compared to controls (8/204, 3.9%). The odds for anxiety symptoms were significantly greater in women with PCOS compared with control subjects (odds ratio 6.88, 95% confidence interval 2.5-18.9). The mean anxiety score was significantly increased in three of the remaining five studies. Other anxiety disorders, such as social phobia, panic attacks, and obsessive compulsive disorders, were assessed infrequently.

Conclusion(s): Our systematic review suggests an increased odds of anxiety symptoms in women with PCOS, underscoring the importance of screening all women with PCOS for anxiety symptoms. Follow-up evaluation and treatment are essential, because generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic condition. Potential contributors for anxiety symptoms, such as hirsutism, obesity, and/or infertility may be specific to women with PCOS but need further investigation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / psychology*
  • Prevalence