Every year the American Psychiatric Association conducts a national poll for a snapshot of America’s handle on anxiety disorders. Health, safety, finances, relationships, and politics are the five different areas in which respondents are asked questions to gauge to which levels they may or may not be experiencing legitimate anxiety and this year saw a five-point jump in the 0-100 national anxiety score.
The survey accounted for gender, race, and age, and generationally it was found that millennials experience anxiety at the highest level as compared to baby boomers and gen-xers. But it was the baby boomer generation that saw the greatest overall jump on the national anxiety scale, moving up seven points between 2017 and 2018, higher than the overall increase for the entire national average.
And what exactly is it that’s causing so much anxiety for everybody? It’s actually not that surprising: paying bills. Almost 75% of women, close to 75% of young adults (18 – 34) and nearly four in five Hispanic adults are at least somewhat or at most extremely anxious about paying their bills.
Three interesting findings from the poll were that people of color are more anxious than Caucasians (11 points higher on the anxiety index), people with Medicaid are more anxious than people with private insurance, and Americans expressed comparable concerns about health, safety, and paying bills, with lower overall concern about politics and relationships. “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,” says APA President Anita Everett, M.D. “It highlights the need to help reduce the effects of stress with regular exercise, relaxation, healthy eating and time with friends and family.”
While the generational trends and commonalities in shared worries would suggest anxiety’s prominence in America is linked to sociological influences, the understanding that exercise, and a healthy diet, and associating with others are all ways to reduce and fight it reminds us that anxiety is, in fact, a hard-wired and natural response to stress on some level. Exercise, for example, triggers a release of endorphins that physically alter our mood and temperament. It’s likely the number one go-to response to dealing with stress and anxiety because it is scientifically proven to produce positive results in most cases. Other natural methods like meditation, floating, which is a relaxation method conducted in sensory deprivation tanks, yoga, aromatherapy, and even writing are all physical actions we can take to trigger a biological response that fights the symptoms of stress. A 2015 study even found that caring for crickets could improve psychological health in older people, and results of a 2015 systematic review suggested that grooming and spending time with horses could alleviate some of those same effects of stress and anxiety. So no matter what the cause of anxiety or how prevalent it may be, and even though there may be no magic pill to instantly wipe away its effects, science certainly supports the idea that there are actions people can take to at the very least reduce anxiety when it strikes.