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  • New survey for Mental Health Awareness Week reveals nearly half (47%) of people in Britain say they get more anxious than they used to
  • Almost 1 in 5 (19%) feel anxious a lot or all the time
  • Money, finance and debt are the most frequently cited cause of anxiety for the nation
  • Charity warns about the implications of rising levels of anxiety, and describes anxiety as under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated

12th May 2014 – The UK charity, the Mental Health Foundation, is today publishing its Living with Anxiety report, which highlights the increasing levels of anxiety in Britain. People are struggling to cope, with 57% wishing they could be less anxious in everyday life.

The report marks the launch of a major new campaign, to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, to raise awareness and understanding of anxiety and its potentially debilitating effect on the nation’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. Although anxiety is a natural human emotion, the more anxiety that people feel, the more they are likely to be tipped over in to diagnosable anxiety disorders, such as panic, phobias and obsessive behaviours, and to experience poor emotional wellbeing and personal distress.

New data included in the report, from a YouGov survey of 2,300 adults in Britain, reveals:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 people (19%) feel anxious a lot or all the time and, for this group, anxiety is something that almost two-thirds (61%) experience on a daily basis.
  • Young people (1 in 5) and the unemployed (1 in 4) are more likely to feel anxious a lot or all the time.
  • The survey reveals the worrying levels of potentially harmful coping strategies adopted by many people. Only 7% of people say they visit their GP to cope with feelings of anxiety, while a quarter (24%) comfort eat and nearly 1 in 5 (18%) “hide away from the world”. 
  • The prevalence of stigma continues to prevent people from seeking help. More than 1 in 4 (26%) agreed that feeling anxious is a sign of not being able to cope and 29% say they would be embarrassed to tell someone they have anxieties.
  • Over half (57%) of people wish they could be less anxious and nearly a half (48%) say anxiety has sometimes stopped them from doing things.

Jenny Edwards CBE, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation says:
“Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the UK and it is increasing: yet it remains under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated.

“A good ability to cope with anxiety is key to our resilience in the face of whatever life throws at us. However, experiencing it too much or too often means we risk becoming overwhelmed. Anxiety at this level can have a truly distressing and debilitating impact on our lives and impact on our physical, as well as mental health.

“As individuals and as a society we need to be more anxiety aware. If we truly recognised the cost anxiety has on society, as well as the mounting distress it causes to individuals, communities and employers, we would act now”.

The campaign is backed by presenter and journalist, Anna Williamson, who has suffered from Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder for the past 10 years.

Anna said: “I know only too well the feelings of dread, the severe panic attacks and the irrational thinking that go hand in hand with anxiety.

“At the time you feel like no one will understand but, from my own experience, I know the true value of talking to others and being strong enough to ask for help, which for me has proven anxiety can be brought under control.

“Anxiety can happen to anyone and it’s time we had our voices heard. That’s why I’m supporting the Mental Health Foundation, along with thousands of other anxiety sufferers, to fight stigma and make the UK more anxiety aware.”

Mental Health Foundation support for anxiety awareness
To help the UK better live with anxiety, the Mental Health Foundation has produced Are you Anxiety Aware? a pocket guide to helping people better understand and manage their anxieties. A series of posters is also available to support events throughout the week across the UK, with over 400 organisations signed up to help publicise the campaign and raise awareness. To download the guide, posters and the full report, Living with Anxiety, visit

Report recommendations

In order to help the nation become more anxiety aware, the Mental Health Foundation has made a number of recommendations to ensure that support for living with anxiety is provided in the least stigmatising and most inclusive way possible:

  • Universal approaches to learning to live well with anxiety should be built into school curriculums from primary onwards, including an understanding of the role of anxiety in our lives, and techniques for managing stresses associated with school.
  • Peer-led approaches should be promoted by employers, in recognition of the unique value of empathic support and understanding that can be provided by those with a common experience.
  • GP training and anxiety-related guidance should be assessed and adapted to work for groups of people who are at highest risk of developing problematic anxiety. 
  • A sample of psychological services should be audited to establish how well current referral processes are working 
  • Agencies offering support to people with anxiety should make greater use of peer mentors and advice and information explicitly based on the experiences of people who live with anxiety.
  • Access to good quality self-help approaches should be made available across the UK through quality-assured and co-designed digital platforms.
  • Further research should be commissioned to better understand the nature of anxiety for different groups in society; the relationship between unemployment, financial distress, and anxiety; and the impact of technological advancements in self-management for anxiety.

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