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

Location: Scotland

15th May 2023
Mental Health Awareness Week

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


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


of adults in Scotland with feelings of anxiety say they keep it a secret.


of adults in Scotland felt anxious in the previous two weeks.

We published research today showing that almost six in ten adults in Scotland (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 Scotland 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 development and delivery of a 10-year mental health strategy in Scotland that includes a focus on prevention and action across all government departments.

Polling of 1000 adults in Scotland (conducted on our behalf by Opinium) found that seven in ten people (70%) had felt anxious at least sometimes in the previous two weeks, while more than a quarter (27%) 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. One in five people (21%) 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. More than four in ten adults in Scotland (44%) 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, one in three people (30%) 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 Scotland, 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 one-third (33%) 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

Julie Cameron, Associate Director at the Mental Health Foundation in Scotland, said:

“Across Scotland more than one million adults are experiencing levels of anxiety that is 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 on anxiety and increase understanding of the steps we can take. However, the scale of the problems requires change that goes beyond individual action.

“We urge the Scottish Government to publish a cross-departmental mental health strategy for the next 10 years with a delivery plan that contains commitments on mental health from all departments including those that cover social security, housing, communities, education, and criminal justice.

“We welcome the commitment to funding the Communities Mental Health & Wellbeing Fund in this year, but it is underfunded and not able to support all the worthy applicant community organisations; funding needs to be increased so people can get preventative mental health support before they become unwell.”

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

In the paper published today, we are calling for the Scottish government to publish and deliver a long-term plan to prevent mental ill-health. These plans should include action and accountability across government departments. That’s because all aspects of our society, including work, education and housing, impact on our mental health.

We are calling for urgent action from both the Scottish 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 Scotland 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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