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Dealing With Anxiety? You’re Not Alone — Here’s What the Statistics Say

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are compelling reasons to believe anxiety and the mental health situation have worsened worldwide. But at the same time, the global movement towards the destigmatization of mental health has made treatment far more readily available than before.

Let’s look at the statistics and try to understand what is happening. 

Written by Dr. Devin Carlson
Last Updated 1 year ago

Dr. Devin Carlson

Chief Medical Reviewer For

Global Anxiety Statistics

A 2017 study shed some light on the state of anxiety-related disorders and mental health at a global level. The study found that an esteemed 792 million people have some mental health disorder — this translates to about 10% of the worldwide population.

Out of all the possible disorders, anxiety disorders were reported by the most significant proportion of respondents: 284 million (3.8%). Depression was a close second (3.4%, 264 million), and bipolar (0.6%, 46 million) and schizophrenia (0.3%, 20 million) followed.

As of 2019, around 3.02 %of males and 4.84 % of females suffered from an anxiety disorder. The fact that females suffer more from anxiety disorders can be visualized in the following graph from Our World in Data. From 1990 to 2019, the average percentage of females with anxiety disorders was 4.9%, whereas only 2.95% of males suffered from the same mental health conditions.

Another study published in 2021 attempted to discern the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the prevalence of mental health disorders. The results were distressing but not altogether surprising. It found that, although rates vary considerably between countries, the rates of depression (28%) and anxiety (26.9%) rose to higher levels than before the pandemic [1].

In 2020, there were an estimated 76.2 million additional cases of anxiety disorders worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with around 51.8 million of these additional cases occurring among females [2].

But what are people most anxious about? Ipsos’ survey in 2022 revealed that inflation was the most worrying topic worldwide, with 32% of the respondents choosing that option. Poverty and social inequality ranked second, followed by unemployment. The COVID-19 pandemic ranks among the top 10 problems facing the world, according to 18% of respondents.

According to Gallup’s 2020 global survey, 67% of respondents reported that spending time outdoors in nature relieves anxiety or depression symptoms. The second and third most valuable approaches were improving healthy lifestyle behaviors (66%) and talking to a friend or family member (63%). 53%of respondents reported that taking prescribed medication was very helpful in alleviating their symptoms, compared to 11% of respondents who stated that it was not beneficial.

Anxiety Disorders In the United States

The Anxiety & Depression Association of America has broken down the prevalence of different types of anxiety disorders in the United States. The figures break down like so:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the US population. However, only 43.2% of this cohort receives treatment. Additionally, GAD often co-occurs with major depression.
  • Panic Disorder (PD): Affects 6 million adults, or 2.7% of the US population.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD): Affects 15 million adults, or 7.1% of the US population. According to a 2007 survey, people commonly wait up to 10 years before seeking help.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Affects 2.5 million adults, or 1.2% of the US population. Also, women are three times as likely to be affected.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Affects 7.7 million adults, or 3.6% of the US population.

These figures show that the most common type of anxiety-related disorder is Social Anxiety Disorder. This condition involves feelings of fear, discomfort, anxiety, or embarrassment in social situations that ultimately lead to avoidance and disruption of daily routines.

From 1990 until 2019, anxiety disorders stayed under 6% of the population until 1997, when the number of cases increased dramatically. By 2000, about 7% of the population was dealing with anxiety. This rate steadily declined again until 2019, when there was another rise.

An America’s State of Mind report looked at the number of patients taking anti-anxiety medications in each state. In 2019, Hawaii used the least — about 2.5% of the population — with New York coming in next-to-last at almost 4%. Louisiana used the most — about 7%; West Virginia was a close second, nearly tying with them.

Anxiety & Age

Another government study, released in September 2020, sampled the prevalence of anxiety symptoms by age and severity. It found that 19.5% of respondents who were 18-29 years of age had anxiety, which amounts to almost 1 out of every 5 Americans. The rates of anxiety decreased as the age cohorts went up.

The figures are in the following graph:

Anxiety & Gender

The study also sheds light on how anxiety symptoms correlate with gender. The general trend regarding mental health disorders is that women are more vulnerable, and the results confirm this conclusion. At all levels of severity (mild, moderate, and severe), women had anxiety rates about two times larger than men.

According to America’s State of Mind 2022 Report, the highest prevalence of anti-anxiety medication use was seen among women aged 45 to 64 years, with around 10% filling at least one prescription in 2019, twice the rate seen among men in the same age group.

This graph shows the percentage of individuals (excluding those on government-sponsored benefits) who filled a prescription for anti-anxiety medication in the US in 2019 by age group and gender.

Anxiety & Race

The same America’s State of Mind study also inquired into the racial differences regarding anxiety. Hispanics, Non-Hispanic Whites, and Non-Hispanic Blacks had similar rates of anxiety, with the Non-Hispanic White cohort having slightly higher rates. Non-Hispanic Asians have significantly lower rates of anxiety than the other racial cohorts.

The rates of anxiety that we see in these studies are concerning, and, to make matters worse, there are still the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to consider. The justifiable fears around the virus, in conjunction with the prolonged bouts of isolation and general societal upheaval, have led to rampant reports of a worsening mental health situation not only in the United States but also around the globe.

A Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) study confirms that trend. It found that, during the pandemic, about four in ten US adults reported experiencing anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms. This scenario is troubling, as the figures from January to June 2019 were only one in ten.

Additionally, a KFF health tracking poll shows how these anxiety symptoms are causing other negative impacts on Americans, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), as well as increasing rates of alcohol and substance use (12%), and the worsening of chronic health conditions (12%).

Wrapping Up: Current Facts & Data About Anxiety

As seen from the figures, a lot of work is needed when dealing with anxiety-related disorders and general mental health. Multiple studies point to historically high rates of anxiety and depression in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and even though the worst might be behind us, we are still dealing with many of its effects. Also, it should be highly concerning that mental health data consistently identify the younger age cohorts, especially teenagers, as being the population most at risk for these disorders.

It seems that, at this point, there is enough data to confirm confidently that the United States is currently in the midst of a mental health crisis. With this in mind, the emphasis of the research should start shifting away from identifying the rates of different mental health-related conditions among the population. Instead, it should be geared towards more specific studies that attempt to puzzle out the significant factors driving this trend and what we can do about them.


Further Reading