According to Mental Health UK, 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.
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.
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.