The findings are based on results from the Swedish Survey of Living Conditions, a representative face to face survey of 16 to 74 year olds, carried out every year in Sweden.
The years covered were 1980-81, 1988-89, and 1995-96, and involved 34,500 people, who were asked, among other things, if they were bothered by anxiety and nervousness, and to what extent.
The researchers then tracked the subsequent health of the interviewees, by checking the national registers for deaths and hospital admissions.
During the five year monitoring period, 1025 people died. Those who reported severe problems were twice as likely to die, and between three and four times as likely to be admitted to hospital with mental health problems as those who did not report any such problems.
For men, severe anxiety/nervousness was a greater risk factor for death from all causes than smoking and longstanding illness over five to 10 years. And their risk of suicide increased over time, so that it was 15 times as high after 10 years.
Among women, smoking and longstanding illness were greater risk factors for death than anxiety/nervousness.
The authors point out that between 1988/89 and 2000/01, the rate of reported anxiety/nervousness in Sweden almost doubled from 12% of the population to 22%, according to the survey.
"The rapid increase in perceived anxiety in Sweden may be an alarm signal that society should take seriously," they conclude.