Our new research reveals anxiety is gripping Northern Ireland as many people suffer in silence and struggle to cope

Location: Northern Ireland

15th May 2023
Mental Health Awareness Week

We are calling on the Northern Ireland and UK governments to take action to reduce levels of anxiety


of adults in Northern Ireland experienced anxiety that interfered with their daily lives in the past two weeks.


of adults in Northern Ireland with feelings of anxiety feel anxious about being able to pay the bills.


of adults in Northern Ireland with feelings of anxiety say they are not coping well.

We published research today showing that almost six in ten adults in Northern Ireland (58%) experienced anxiety that interfered with their daily lives in the previous two weeks.

On the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week (15 to 21 May 2023), we are raising the alarm about the impact of anxiety across Northern Ireland as we publish our new report, Uncertain Times: Anxiety in the UK and how to tackle it. The paper outlines the prevalence of anxiety across the population, the key drivers in the wake of the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis and recommendations for governments to reduce anxiety levels and support good mental health. Among the recommendations is a call for the funding to deliver the 10-year mental health strategy to be allocated, particularly for the Early Intervention and Prevention Action Plan.

Polling of 1000 adults in Northern Ireland (conducted on our behalf by Opinium) found that almost three-quarters (74%) had felt anxious at least sometimes in the previous two weeks. Almost a quarter (23%) of those with feelings of anxiety felt anxious to the extent that it stopped them from doing what they’d like or need to do. Nearly one in five people (19%) felt anxious most or all of the time.

Despite anxiety being so common, stigma and shame play a part in how people deal with anxiety. Nearly half of the adults in Northern Ireland (48%) with feelings of anxiety keep it a secret. This suggests that although there has been progress in discussing mental health more openly in recent years, significant numbers of people are still not comfortable talking about their own experiences.

Worryingly, nearly one in three people (28%) with feelings of anxiety say they are not coping well with those feelings. This is worrying because chronic (or long-term) anxiety is associated with a higher risk of physical or mental health problems. 

The results of the polling make it clear that financial stress is giving rise to anxiety across Northern Ireland, showing that existing support for people who are struggling does not go far enough. The most commonly reported cause of anxiety in the past two weeks was being able to afford to pay bills, reported by more than one-third (34%) of respondents, while 42% said that financial security would help prevent anxiety.

We have also released evidence-based advice on how to reduce anxiety’s toll

Karen Hall, Head of Northern Ireland for the Mental Health Foundation, said: 

“People across NI are experiencing levels of anxiety that are stopping them from living their lives, with many not speaking out and struggling to cope. More can and must be done to protect our mental health. A big focus of our Mental Health Awareness Week is to encourage people to share their experiences with anxiety and increase understanding of the steps we can take. However, the scale of the problems requires change that goes beyond individual action.

“We need a stable government in NI that can deliver on the promised actions in the Mental Health Strategy. We also need the many other strategies that have yet to be published, particularly the anti-poverty strategy to be taken forward. The budgetary decisions being taken in NI now will significantly impact people’s mental health, particularly children and young people. We need sustainable investment models and long-term planning focusing on preventing poor mental health, including anxiety.

“Good mental health should be the measure of a thriving society, and we need that goal to drive our governments’ decisions.”

Our latest report, Uncertain Times: Anxiety in the UK and how to tackle it

In the paper published today, we are calling for urgent action from both the Northern Ireland and UK governments to alleviate the pressures of the rising cost-of-living as part of these preventative, cross-government plans. This must include ensuring social security benefits cover life’s essentials so people are not forced to skip meals or forgo heating their homes and debt-relief programmes.

We hope that our Mental Health Awareness Week campaign can give people an opportunity to speak out about how anxiety affects them, share their experiences, get tips and advice for how to manage feelings of anxiety and find out about what further support is available.

We are the home of Mental Health Awareness Week

Learn more about the week, how to get involved and download our report.
Learn more about Mental Health Awareness Week
Mental Health Awareness Week - 15 to 21 May 2023


Notes to editors

For further information and interview requests please contact [email protected] .

About polling

Polling of 1000 adults aged 18+ in Northern Ireland was conducted by Opinium between 24 March and 3 April 2023. Figures are weighted to be nationally representative.

About Mental Health Awareness Week

About the Mental Health Foundation

  • Our vision is for good mental health for all.
  • The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems.
  • We drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk.
  • Mental Health Foundation is committed to promoting an anti-racist, inclusive community where we can all be ourselves.
  • The Mental Health Foundation relies on voluntary donations to provide evidenced-based advice and carry out vital work to prevent poor mental health.
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