The Grapevine

Why Anxiety Levels Are On The Rise In The US

If you have caught yourself worrying a lot more than usual, you are not alone. A new public opinion poll from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) painted a bleak picture of the mindset most Americans have right now, noting a significant rise in levels of anxiety. 

A nationally representative sample of 1,004 adults participated in the survey in March 2018. The findings also highlighted the issues that seem to be inducing fear, restlessness, and anxious thoughts.

Anxiety levels today compared to a year ago

According to the survey, 39% of Americans reported feeling more anxious today than they did a year ago while another 39% reported feeling similar levels of anxiety compared to last year. Of the remaining, 19% stated they felt less anxious while 3% felt unsure.

In 2017, the national anxiety score was 46 out of 100. The new findings indicated that the national anxiety score increased by 5 points, rising to 51 out of 100 in 2018.

The major causes of worry and anxiety

Safety was what triggered worry among most Americans. 36% of the respondents stated feeling extremely anxious about keeping themselves or their family safe.

Financial worries came in at a close second, with 35% of respondents feeling extremely anxious about their expenses and paying their bills. Another survey from 2017 suggested low wage increases and rising debt may be to blame for financial dissatisfaction.

One in five respondents reported feeling extremely anxious about the impact of politics on their daily life while 36% said they were "somewhat anxious" about politics. A similar prevalence was observed when they were asked about anxiety concerning relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.

Additional questions also revealed widespread concern over opioid abuse, gun violence, and mental health problems. 

Breaking it down by gender, race, and age

Levels of anxiety saw a rise in every age group, every racial group, and both men and women. Though, certain trends were observed when groups were compared.

Anxiety levels were generally higher among women compared to men. An analysis of respondents under the age of 50 revealed that 38% of men and 57% of women in this age group had become more anxious in the past year. In adults over the age of 50, this was observed in 24% of men and 39% of women.

In terms of racial differences, the APA stated that people of color scored 11 points higher on the anxiety scale than those who were white. When comparing generations, millennials were found to be the most anxious group. However, Baby Boomers experienced the most significant spike in anxiety over the past year when compared to millennials and Generation X.

The margin of error for the poll is considered to be 3.1 percentage points. The results were reported at the APA annual meeting in New York City held from May 5-9.