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Americans Are More Anxious Than a Year Ago; Baby Boomers Report Greatest Increase in Anxiety

Americans' anxiety levels experienced sharp increases in the past year, according to new national poll released by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Respondents were asked to rate their anxiety on five different areas: health, safety, finances, relationships, and politics.

This year's national anxiety score—derived by mean scores on a 0-100 scale, is 51, a five-point jump since 2017. Increases in anxiety scores were seen across age groups, across people of different race/ethnicity and among men and women. By generation, millennials continued to be more anxious than Gen Xers or baby boomers, but baby boomer's anxiety increased the most with a seven-point jump between 2017 and 2018.

While more Americans are anxious than last year in all five areas (health, safety, finances, relationships, and politics), the greatest increase was in anxiety about paying bills. Nearly three-quarters of women, nearly three-quarters of young adults (18–34), and nearly four in five Hispanic adults are somewhat or extremely anxious about paying their bills.

Women are more anxious than men, and also had a greater increase in anxiety than men between 2017 to 2018. When asked to compare their anxiety to the previous year, more than one-half (57%) of women 18–49 years reported being more anxious, compared with 38% of men the same age. Older Americans also see this gender gap—39% of women 50 and older and 24% of men 50 and older say they are more anxious now than this time last year. Overall, nearly four in 10 people (39%) say they are more anxious than they were last year.

Other findings from the poll include the following:

  • People of color are more anxious than Caucasians (11 points higher on the anxiety index).
  • Americans expressed nearly equal concerns about health, safety, and paying bills, with somewhat less concern about politics and relationships.
  • People with Medicaid are more anxious than people with private insurance.

"This poll shows US 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," says APA President Anita Everett, MD. "It highlights the need to help reduce the effects of stress with regular exercise, relaxation, healthy eating, and time with friends and family."

Mental Health and Stigma
The poll also looked at attitudes and perceptions about mental health and treatment. The vast majority of Americans believe a person's mental health impacts their physical health (86%, up from 80% in 2017). Three-quarters of American say untreated mental illness has a significant impact on the US economy. About one-half of US adults say there is less stigma against people with mental illness than 10 years ago. However, more than one-third say they would not vote for a candidate for public office who had been diagnosed with a mental illness, even if the candidate received treatment.

Source: American Psychiatric Association