Who has anxiety in the UK?

In March 2023, the Mental Health Foundation worked with Opinium to conduct an online survey of 6000 UK adults aged 18+ to look at anxiety in the UK population, its causes, and popular coping mechanisms.1

What we found was that nearly three-quarters of the population (73%) had felt anxious at least sometimes in the previous two weeks, with 20% anxious most or all of the time. These levels of anxiety were highest amongst 18 to 34-year-olds, single parents, carers, people identifying as LGBTQ+ and those from Black and minority ethnic communities.

An abstract pattern of a serious of bright green triangles pointing to the right

For those who had felt anxious in the previous two weeks, more than a third (34%) stated it had interfered with their day-to-day life.

Nearly half the young people (18 to 24-year-olds) in the research (45%) and students (48%) indicated that anxiety had affected their day-to-day life to a great or moderate extent. Figures were also high for both single parents (47%) and carers (41%).

Our research also discovered that for just over a quarter (26%) of those suffering from anxiety, it had an even more profound effect on their life by stopping them doing what they needed to do most or all of the time.

This was more apparent in some groups than others. Again, single parents (41%) and those with a long term condition (38%) experienced this the most.

There are several factors that may explain the higher prevalence of anxiety among younger people compared to other groups. Increased academic or job stress and pressures could be impacting on their mental health. In our Thriving Learners study amongst college students, those experiencing food insecurity were also experiencing high levels of depression and low levels of well-being.v In addition, social media may add to their stress as they compare their experiences to those of others, feel pressure to present a perfect image online, and/or be a victim of cyberbullying.

Anxiety can be particularly pronounced during adolescence and young adulthood. Changes at this time can be both new and stressful and may trigger feelings of uncertainty and fear, which can contribute to anxiety.

Jazmine's experience of anxiety

Jazmine is a 21-year-old university student. She describes how feelings of anxiety can be hard to articulate and identify.

“I have felt anxiety all my life but never knew what it actually was. I experienced social anxiety in school when I was afraid to talk and eat in front of others.
I thought there was something wrong with me until I researched [it] and realised it is something most people experience.

“As a bisexual, mixed-race woman with a disability, I feel like I’m a minority in society and many groups/forces are against people like me. It’s worrying to think that racism and homophobia still exist.

“Social issues that have personally heightened feelings of anxiety for me are poverty, including worrying about where and how to gain an income.”

Uncertain times: Anxiety in the UK and how to tackle it.

Previous: What is anxiety? | Next: What causes anxiety?

Download the full report (PDF)

1 - This data was collected by Opinium Research. The research sample was 6,000 UK adults and the data was weighted to be nationally representative. The survey took place between the 24 March and 3 April 2023.
v - Maguire, C., Cameron, J., Cherman, V & Solomon, S. (2022). College Thriving Learners, The Mental Health Foundation

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.

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