Mental Health Statistics: Anxiety

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Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health problems in the UK and elsewhere, yet it is still under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated.

The experience of anxiety often involves interconnected symptoms and disorders. It is estimated that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, while one in six experience a neurotic disorder such as anxiety or depression. Anxiety disorders are also estimated to affect 3.3% of children and young adults in the UK.

The prevalence of the most common forms of anxiety are given below.

  • While 2.6% of the population experience depression and 4.7% have anxiety problems, as many as 9.7% suffer mixed depression and anxiety, making it the most prevalent mental health problem in the population as a whole.
  • About 1.2% of the UK population experience panic disorders, rising to 1.7% for those experiencing it with or without agoraphobia.
  • Around 1.9% of British adults experience a phobia of some description, and women are twice as likely to be affected by this problem as men.
  • Agoraphobia affects between 1.5% and 3.5% of the general population in its fully developed form; in a less severe form, up to one in eight people experience this.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects 2.6% of men and 3.3% of women.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD) affect around 2–3% of the population.
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder affects between 2–5% of the population, yet accounts for as much as 30% of the mental health problems seen by GPs.

Previous survey evidence suggests that:

  • Although, on average, women rate their life satisfaction higher than men, their anxiety levels are significantly higher than men.
  • People in their middle years (35 to 59) report the highest levels of anxiety compared to other age groups.
  • People in the older age groups tend to be happier and less anxious.
  • People with a disability are, on average, more anxious than people without a disability.
  • Unemployed people report significantly higher anxiety levels than those in employment.
  • People in the lowest income groups report significantly higher anxiety levels than those in the higher income groups.
  • On average, all ethnic groups report higher levels of anxiety than people who describe themselves as White British.
  • Young people aged 16–24 are more likely to report lower levels of anxiety compared with adults generally.
  • Women and young adults aged 20–29 are the most likely to seek help for anxiety from their GP.

Additionally, a YouGov survey of 2,300 adults in Britain carried out for Mental Health Awareness Week 2014 reveals that:

  • Almost one in five people feel anxious all of the time or a lot of the time.
  • Only one in twenty people never feel anxious.
  • Women are more likely to feel anxious than men.
  • The likelihood of feeling anxious reduces with age.
  • Students and people not in employment are more likely to feel anxious all of the time or a lot of the time.
  • Financial issues are a cause of anxiety for half of people, but this is less likely to be so for older people.
  • Women and older people are more likely to feel anxious about the welfare of loved ones.
  • Four in every ten employed people experience anxiety about their work.
  • Around a fifth of people who are anxious have a fear of unemployment.
  • Younger people are much more likely to feel anxious about personal relationships.
  • Older people are more likely to be anxious about growing old, the death of a loved one and their own death.
  • The youngest people surveyed (aged 18 - 24) were twice as likely to be anxious about being alone than the oldest people (aged over 55 years).
  • One-fifth of people who have experienced anxiety do nothing to cope with it.
  • The most commonly used coping strategies are talking to a friend, going for a walk, and physical exercise.
  • Comfort eating is used by a quarter of people to cope with feelings of anxiety, and women and young people are more likely to use this as a way of coping.
  • A third of the students in the survey said they cope by ‘hiding themselves away from the world’.
  • People who are unemployed are more likely to use coping strategies that are potentially harmful, such as alcohol and cigarettes.
  • Fewer than one in ten people have sought help from their GP to deal with anxiety, although those who feel anxious more frequently are much more likely to do this.
  • People are believed to be more anxious now than they were five years ago.
  • There is a tendency to reject the notion that having anxious feelings is stigmatising.
  • People who experience anxiety most frequently tend to agree that it is stigmatising.
  • Just under half of people get more anxious these days than they used to and believe that anxiety has stopped them from doing things in their life.
  • Most people want to be less anxious in their day-to-day lives.
  • Women and younger people are more likely to say that anxiety has impacted on their lives.

Living with Anxiety is our comprehensive report on the issue commissioned for Mental Health Awareness Week 2014 and contains more detail about the above data.