Why is Anxiety on the Rise?

Anxiety is a natural feeling of fear or apprehension about the future. But, when anxiety becomes chronic and starts to impact your life, you may be developing an anxiety disorder. And anxiety disorders are a common problem throughout the world.

In the United States alone, 40 million people are affected by anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety, panic attacks, social anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Globally, itís estimated that about 284 million, or about 1 in 27 people, suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Although, itís not clear if anxiety disorders are actually on the rise. Anxiety disorders have only been classified for diagnosis in the past few decades, and research has found that itís difficult to compare how many people suffered from anxiety historically compared to today.

Despite the lack of clear statistics, many people are reporting more anxiety in recent years, even without a clinical diagnosis. In a 2017 national opinion poll, the American Psychiatric Association discovered that one third of Americans felt more anxious than they did the year before. In a follow-up poll in 2018, Americans had an additional 5 percent increase in anxiety levels.

A surge in products designed to reduce anxiety also points to an emerging anxiety trend. Products like spinners, guided meditation recordings and anti-anxiety drugs, are becoming much more common.

Letís take a closer look at what research says about the prevalence of anxiety, and what might be the modern causes behind it.

1. Where You Live Makes a Difference

A 2017 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that anxiety disorders are more common and debilitating in countries with higher incomes. In fact, people in high-income countries were three times more likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder than those living in low-income countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) found similar results in their 2017 Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders report. In wealthier regions of the world, such as the Americas and South-East Asia, anxiety was almost twice as common as in less wealthy regions, such as Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.

These statistics suggest that anxiety may be somehow linked to a modern, Western lifestyle. The reasons behind this are likely a complex mix of many different factors. But itís important to recognize the increased risk of anxiety for those of us living in a more affluent country.

Related: 10 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

2. Other Physical and Mental Health Conditions

Certain medical conditions can increase your risk of developing anxiety disorders, such as heart disease, diabetes or thyroid problems. A 2018 study found that 45 percent of people experiencing chronic pain also experience one or more types of common anxiety disorders. In addition, some medications may cause anxiety as a side effect.

Unfortunately, chronic disease is on the rise, which may be affecting our anxiety levels. In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 60 percent of all deaths worldwide were due to chronic disease. By 2020, that number is expected to rise to 75 percent.

Evidence also suggests there has been an increase in mental health problems over the past few generations. And some mental health conditions can trigger anxiety as well.

If youíre struggling with a chronic physical or mental health condition and are concerned about how it may be affecting your anxiety levels, speak to your doctor right away. Many interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, have been shown to help reduce anxiety even in the presence of other conditions.

3. Alcohol and Drug Use

Global drug use is on the rise, according to a 2018 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report. And this rise may play a role in increasing anxiety.

People with anxiety disorders are two to three times more likely to develop an alcohol or substance abuse disorder. And the two problems can make each other worse. You may be tempted to use drugs or alcohol to reduce your anxiety, but these substances can have the opposite effect and increase your anxiety symptoms.

4. Caffeine

Research shows that higher caffeine intake is associated with higher degrees of anxiety. Researchers even suggest that assessing caffeine intake, and reducing it if needed, should be part of a routine psychiatric examination before prescribing any drugs.

And caffeine intake has been increasing in recent years. In 1999, the average US consumption of caffeine was 120 mg per day. By 2017, that average climbed by over 50 percent to 190 mg per day. The majority of caffeine is consumed in coffee, soft drinks and tea. But caffeine can also be found in chocolate, energy drinks, weight-loss supplements, ice cream and even some over-the-counter pain-relieving drugs.

Some of us are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others, so pay attention to how caffeine affects you. If you notice it makes you too jittery, tense or anxious, try reducing your caffeine consumption or giving it up for a while to see if your anxiety improves.

Related: 11 Ways to Reduce Stress in 5 Minutes or Less

5. Media

Evidence suggests that our nearly constant exposure to news and other media may be increasing our anxiety. A 2017 survey from the American Psychological Association found that 56 percent of Americans say keeping up with current news causes them stress. Many also reported increased anxiety, fatigue and sleep loss as a result.

Research has also shown that watching news with a negative bias, which most news has, can increase worry and anxiety about personal concerns that arenít even related to the news.

And itís not only the news thatís anxiety-provoking. Consider how you feel after watching a horror movie, playing an intense video game or reading a nasty post on social media. Does your heart rate go up? Do you feel more tense or anxious? These are common responses to many of our modern forms of media and entertainment.

If you find yourself overly worried about current events or issues in your own life, take a media fast for a week or two and see if it helps your overall mood. And if you find symptoms of anxiety persisting or starting to affect your life in general, speak to your doctor about potential treatment.

Various factors of modern life may put you at greater risk of anxiety, but knowing some of the risk factors can help you prevent or alleviate an anxiety disorder before it becomes a problem.

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Chad Anderson
Chad Aabout a month ago

Thank you.

Peggy B
Peggy B1 months ago


Clare O'Beara
Clare O2 months ago


Jan S
Jacob S2 months ago


Alice L
Past Member 2 months ago


Olivia H
Olivia H2 months ago

Thank you

Anna R
Alice R3 months ago

thank you for sharing

Frances G
Past Member 3 months ago


Ellie L
Past Member 3 months ago

Thanks for posting

Sue M
Sue M3 months ago

I have started limiting my time online and only access FB for an hour a day! It seems to be helping