We're living in times of high anxiety. If you've been feeling more anxious in 2018 than last year, it's not your imagination. A new poll from the American Psychiatric Association found that Americans' anxiety spiked dramatically over the past year.
Participants rated their levels of anxiety in five key areas — health, safety, finances, relationships and politics — and the findings were interesting, though not exactly surprising. The APA measures anxiety on a scale of zero to 100, and this year's mean score is 51 — a five-point increase over 2017.
The poll found that women report feeling anxious more than men and that there was a great increase in anxiety from last year to this year: 57 percent of women aged 18 to 49 said they're more anxious in 2018 than 2017 compared to 38 percent of men in the same age group.
What are we most anxious about? Paying bills. Well, at least some of us. Almost three-quarters of women and young adults (ages 18 to 34) and almost 4 in 5 Latino/Latina adults report being anxious about finances.
There were also generational differences in the poll findings. For example, millennials reported being more anxious than Gen Xers or baby boomers — though boomers' anxiety saw the sharpest increase (a seven-point jump between 2017 and 2018).
Unsurprisingly, people on Medicaid reported being more anxious than those with private insurance. Also, people of color had a mean anxiety score that was 11 points higher than white people.
So, what are we less concerned about? Our anxiety isn't as severe about relationships and politics than it is about health, finances and safety.
“This poll shows U.S. adults are increasingly anxious particularly about health, safety and finances. That increased stress and anxiety can significantly impact many aspects of people’s lives, including their mental health, and it can affect families.” APA President Dr. Anita Everett said in a statement. “It highlights the need to help reduce the effects of stress with regular exercise, relaxation, healthy eating and time with friends and family.”
Unfortunately, there is still stigma surrounding mental health in 2018, though we are making a little progress. For example, most Americans (86 percent) believe a person's mental health impacts their physical health, and 75 percent think that untreated mental illness has a significant impact on the country's economy.
And while around half of U.S. adults report the stigma of mental illness has decreased over the past decade, more than one-third say they wouldn't vote for a candidate for public office who had been diagnosed with a mental illness, even if they received treatment. In other words, we have a long way to go in that area.
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