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Americans’ anxiety levels leaped higher this year, poll finds

Although millennials continue to be the generation with the greatest levels of anxiety, baby boomers’ worries jumped the most over the past 12 months.

Four in 10 Americans are more anxious than they were a year ago, according to a new poll released this week by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Although millennials continue to be the generation with the greatest levels of anxiety, baby boomers’ worries jumped the most over the past 12 months, the poll also found.

“This poll shows U.S. adults are increasingly anxious, particularly about health, safety, and finances,” said Dr. Anita Everett, president of the APA, in a released statement. “That increased stress and anxiety can significantly impact many aspects of people’s lives, including their mental health, and it can affect families.”

“It highlights the need to help reduce the effects of stress with regular exercise, relaxation, healthy eating, and time with friends and family,” she added.

Across the board

For the poll, the APA surveyed a representative sample of 1,004 American adults during a four-day period in March of this year. They then compared those results with a similar-sized poll taken in 2017. 

The poll asked respondents to rate their anxiety in five different areas: safety, health, finances, relationships and politics. 

Overall, 39 percent of the people surveyed reported being more anxious in 2018 than they were in 2017. Another 39 percent said they were as anxious this year as they were last year. Only 19 percent said they were less anxious than in 2017.

The “national anxiety score” this year was 51 (on a scale of 0 to 100). That’s five points higher than the national score of 46 in 2017.

The rise in anxiety was widespread, occurring in all generations, both genders and different racial and ethnic groups. As was the case last year, millennials expressed the greatest anxiety, but the worries of baby boomers increased the most over the past 12 months, jumping 7 points from 2017 to 2018. 

More women reported their anxiety rose during the past year than men. Among 18- to 49-year-old women, for example, 57 percent said they were more anxious this year than last. That compares with 38 percent of men the same age.

The poll also found that people of color are more anxious that whites (by 11 points on the anxiety index), and that people on Medicaid are more anxious than those with private health insurance.

Areas of greatest anxiety

The greatest source of extreme anxiety this year had to do with safety,with 68 percent of Americans reporting they were “extremely anxious” or “somewhat anxious” about “keeping myself or my family safe.” (The poll was taken within two weeks of the Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. The APA does not comment on whether the shooting may have affected this particular result, but 87 percent of the poll’s participants agreed with the statement that “gun violence, including violence from mass shootings, is a public health threat.”) 

Health was another big concern. Among the poll’s respondents, 28 percent said they were extremely worried about their health, and another 39 percent said they were somewhat anxious about it.

But finances showed the greatest jump in anxiety, particularly among millennials. In 2018, nearly three out of four young adults (aged 18 to 34) said they were somewhat or extremely anxious about paying their bills. 

Such worries were also high among women and Hispanics, however — no matter what their age.  Three out of four women and four out of five Hispanics reported being somewhat or extremely anxious about their personal finances.

The respondents were less concerned about the remaining two areas they were asked about in the poll: politics and interpersonal relationships. Fifty-six percent said that politics was causing them anxiety in 2018, and 48 percent said the same about their relationships.

In another APA survey, however — one conducted last December — 63 percent of Americans said the future of the nation was a significant source of stress and 59 percent agreed with the statement that “the United States is at the lowest point they can remember in history.”

FMI: The APA has posted results from the recent survey on its website.

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