Anxiety has become one of the most talked about topics in mental health. While it’s good that anxiety is getting more attention, many myths and confusion surround the topic.
The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) has chosen anxiety as our Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 theme to provide a better understanding of what anxiety is, when it becomes a concern, and what we can do to help ourselves and each other when anxiety starts to become a problem.
This briefing looks at what our research has uncovered: the prevalence and rates of anxiety amongst different groups of people, and the current key drivers and risk factors for anxiety. It then considers the main ways of coping with anxiety and provides recommendations to governments across the UK for preventing anxiety.
- Nearly three-quarters of the population (73%) had felt anxious at least sometimes in the previous two weeks, with one in five people (20%) anxious most or all of the time.
- Some groups of people are more likely to be affected by anxiety than others. Nearly all young people (18 to 24 years) in our research (86%) had felt anxious in the previous two weeks. For over half (58%), this had stopped them undertaking day-to-day activities. Other groups more likely to report feeling anxious were:
- Single parents (89%)
- LGBTQ+ people (89%)
- Carers (84%)
- 18 to 34-year-olds (86%)
- People from a minority ethnic community (84%)
- People with a long-term physical health condition (LTC) (82%)
- Nearly a third (30%) said they were not coping well with their anxiety, with higher levels noted amongst:
- Unemployed people (43%)
- LGBTQ+ people (41%)
- Students (40%)
- People in our survey are using a variety of coping mechanisms to manage their anxiety. Some of the more popular choices can be healthy such as exercise, sleeping more, and connecting with friends and family. However, we also had evidence of unhealthy coping strategies; for example, excessive avoidance of trigger situations, increased consumption of alcohol, and smoking.
- We encourage people experiencing feelings of anxiety to try our evidence-based recommendations to help them to manage it, including getting active and speaking to family and/or friends.
However, we can’t tackle anxiety by only focusing on remedies for individuals. National and local policymakers must prioritise actions to promote good mental health for all and to reduce anxiety, particularly for people at the highest risk of experiencing persistent and overwhelming anxiety.
We are calling for:
- Support for community social networks, resources, and resilience. We recommend fast-track access to funding to sustain and grow grassroots organisations (or initiatives that are likely to support them), and action to make social media and the online environment safer.
- Implementation at scale of programmes and approaches to improve relationships, and the culture and environment in which people grow, learn, live, and work. For example, evidence-based parenting programmes, interventions to create mentally healthy workplaces, and whole-school and college approaches to mental health that include anti-bullying programmes.
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What can we do to cope with feelings of anxiety?
Dealing with anxiety can be hard. But there are some things we can do to manage these tough feelings. Have a read through our suggestions and find out what might work for you.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2023
On the theme of 'anxiety', this year's Mental Health Awareness Week is from 15 to 21 May 2023. Learn more about the week and how you can get involved.