Anxiety Disorder Statistics and Facts

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated May 16, 2021

Anxiety Disorders affect 18.1 percent of adults in the United States (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54). - National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).[1]

Current estimates put this number much higher - approximately 30 percent - as many people don't seek help, are misdiagnosed, or don't know they have issues with anxiety.

Approximately 33.7 percent of (3 in every 10) Americans will have an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.[2] Some researchers believe this number is closer to 50 percent (half of all Americans).

3 in 10 americans will have anxiety disorder

Most people have moderate and above degrees of anxiety disorder

anxiety disorder degrees of severityAccording to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 43.5 percent of anxiety disorder sufferers have early-onset to mild anxiety, 33.7 percent have moderate anxiety, and 22.8 percent have high to very high degree anxiety.[3]

In an online poll we conducted, 18 percent of respondents categorized their anxiety as early-onset to mild, 27.5 percent reported moderate anxiety, and 54.5 percent reported high to very high degree anxiety.

93 percent of anxiety disorder sufferers in Canada said they are taking, or have taken a medication for their anxiety.[4]

93 percent of canadians with anxiety take or have taken medication

Economic burden

According to The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders, a study commissioned by the ADAA and based on data gathered by the association and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one third of the $148 billion total mental health bill for the U.S.[5]

More than $22.84 billion of those costs are associated with the repeated use of healthcare services, as those with anxiety disorders seek relief for symptoms that mimic physical illnesses.

People with an anxiety disorder are three-to-five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than non-sufferers.

Anxiety has become the number one mental health issue in North America. It's estimated that one third of the North American adult population experiences problems with anxiety.

A recent survey showed 41 percent of employees from a range of industries reported high levels of anxiety in the workplace.

A recent study by University of Toronto Scarborough and Rotman School of Management professors Julie McCarthy and John Trougakos, along with Bonnie Cheng from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, found that high levels of emotional exhaustion that come from workplace anxiety can directly lead to lower job performance.

Another report found that more than half of college students sought help for their anxiety issues. Research has found that anxiety can impede learning, which often leads to lower academic achievement and performance.

Anxiety and anxiety related conditions negatively impact individuals and our society, yet few seek and receive good help:

only 10 percent receive treatment for anxiety disorder

  • Approximately 30 percent of the adult population in North America have anxiety unwellness issues (anxiety disorder)
  • Only one third will receive treatment, and of those, only ten percent will receive proper treatment.
  • Those who experience anxiety have a very high propensity for drug abuse and addictions.

Other statistics show:

  • 65% of North Americans take prescription medications daily, 43% take mood altering prescriptions regularly.
  • There were over 3.3 Billion prescriptions filled in America in 2002 (12 times the U.S’s population - that’s 12 prescriptions for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. that year).
  • Paxil and Zoloft (two of the more popular anti-anxiety medications) ranked 7th and 8th in the top ten prescribed medications in the US (these two medications totaled almost $5 Billion in sales in 2002).
  • Recreational drugs are also used to cope with anxiety. 42% of young adults in America regularly use recreational drugs (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
  • Alcohol is commonly used to cope with anxiety. 72% of Canadians consume alcohol each year.
  • 10% of Canadians admit they have an alcohol problem.
  • In 1998, 50% of all traffic fatalities were alcohol-related fatalities. (CBC Report)
  • 70,587 Canadians were charged with impaired driving in 1998. (CBC Report)
  • 25 - 40% of all patients in US hospitals are being treated for complications resulting from alcohol related problems (The Marin Institute)
  • 10% of all deaths in Canada result from alcohol-related diseases.
  • Alcohol-related car crashes are the number one killer of teens. Alcohol use is also associated with homicides, suicides, and drownings—the next three leading causes of death among youth (Center for Substance Abuse Prevention)

Marijuana and anxiety:

  • 10 percent of Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) also suffered with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) - Research by Dr. Julia D. Buckner at Louisiana State University, Dr. Richard G. Heimberg at Temple University, Dr. Franklin Schneier at Columbia University, and Dr. Carlos Blanco’s team at the New York State Psychiatric Institute analyzed data from the 2001‒2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC).
  • Research, as well as our personal and professional experiences with marijuana and anxiety, shows marijuana can cause panic attacks and prolonged issues with anxiety. For example, in a recent online poll we conducted, 40 percent of those who tried marijuana said marijuana contributed to their struggle with anxiety disorder. Of those, 16 percent said their anxiety problems resulted directly from pot use. As well, 72 percent of those who had a negative experience with pot said marijuana contributed to their struggle with anxiety.
  • Even though many people are turning to cannabis to relieve anxiety symptoms, research shows cannabis worsens mood and anxiety disorders in the long run.[2] As the authors note, cannabis use in individuals with mood and anxiety symptoms seems to be a “Band-Aid” strategy that may temporarily improve acute symptoms while worsening outcomes in the long run. Absolutely no study suggests cannabis use as a viable therapeutic strategy for anxiety and depression.

Anxiety Disorder Types and Percentages

NUMBERS AND PERCENTAGES REFER TO ADULT U.S. POPULATION AFFECTED

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: 6.8 million, 3.1%.

  • Women are twice as likely to be afflicted than men. We believe the number of men who struggle with generalized anxiety is much higher because many don't report it to their doctors.
  • Very likely to be co-exist with other disorders.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 2.2 million, 1.0%.

  • It is equally common among men and women.
  • One third of afflicted adults had their first symptoms in childhood.
  • In 1990 OCD cost the U.S. 6% of the total $148 billion mental health bill.

Panic Disorder: 6 million, 2.7%.

  • Women are twice as likely to be afflicted than men (we believe the number of men who struggle with panic disorder is much higher because many don't report it to their doctors).
  • Often co-exists with depression.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: 7.7 million, 3.5%.

  • Women are more likely to be afflicted than men.
  • Rape is the most likely trigger of PTSD, 65% of men and 45.9% of women who are raped will develop the disorder.
  • Childhood sexual abuse is a strong predictor of lifetime likelihood for developing PTSD.

Social Anxiety Disorder: 15 million, 6.8%.

  • It is equally common among men and women.
  • Specific Phobia affects: 19 million, 8.7%.
  • Women are twice as likely to be afflicted as men.

SOURCE: Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA)

According to our statistics over the last 16 years, 54 percent of woman and 46 percent of men experience anxiety disorder.

Anxiety Disorder Affects All Ages And Walks Of Life

Below is a graph from the Canadian government showing the percentages of people affected by anxiety disorder based on age:

anxiety disorder by age group

Age-specific annual prevalence (%) and rate ratios of the use of health services for mood and anxiety disorders among people aged one year and older, by sex, Canada, 2009-2010 Photograph: The Canadian Government[2]

Based on several studies from various locations around the world, the highest incidence of anxiety disorder occurs between the ages of 30 to 40 years old.

The highest incidence of onset is between the ages of 16 and 26.

Overall, females experience anxiety disorder more than males. However, males are more reluctant to acknowledge and report anxiety disorder.

Anxiety And How It Affects Society

These are just a few of the ways unresolved anxiety affects our society.

Those who have an anxiety condition:

  • Often feel out of control of their health and life
  • Experience higher levels of overall stress
  • Often struggle with low self-esteem
  • Feel nervous in many social situations
  • Have difficulty managing pressure
  • Have higher expectations of themselves and others
  • Feel returned love is performance-based
  • Often have unhealthy boundaries
  • Are often workaholics
  • Are more often sick
  • Often have unhealthy relationships
  • Visit the doctor more often
  • Tax the medical system (with frequent trips to their doctor or emergency rooms)
  • Are more likely to take medications
  • Are more likely to have other health problems
  • Are overall more unhappy
  • Experience erratic emotional behaviors
  • Often quick to get angry
  • Regularly feel unsettled
  • Regularly feel overwhelmed
  • Feel disconnected or detached from reality and life
  • Often feel they are just on the edge of losing control
  • Often aren’t reliable (because their symptoms may prevent them from following through)
  • Become inward focused and dwell on their health condition and personal problems
  • May jump from relationship to relationship in search of perfection
  • May jump from job to job because of higher levels of stress
  • Live a restricted lifestyle (within their self-imposed “safe zones”)
  • Feel life is passing them by
  • Question their faith and God’s presence in their lives
  • Feel at a distance from God

In addition to anxiety disorder impairment, those who seek help may encounter real and perceived barriers to help:

  • the individual or medical professional may not recognize the symptoms
  • symptoms may interfere with the person’s ability to seek help
  • specialized help may not be available in their area
  • long waiting lists limit access to professional help
  • the individual has insufficient medical insurance coverage
  • they may believe there is a stigma attached to mental illness and wish to avoid any association with it
  • they may be avoiding the perceived appearance of “weakness”
  • they may be in denial

We encourage anxiety sufferers to seek professional help. Only through proper help can issues with anxiety disorder be overcome. 

Many believe that anxiety disorder will “just go away”. Unfortunately, the reverse is often true…the longer a person struggles with anxiety disorder, the more entrenched it becomes and the more complex it is to resolve. Seeking proper help early provides the best results.

With the right help and healing, those who have experienced an anxiety condition can:

  • Regain control of their health and life
  • Live a balanced, happy, and fulfilling life
  • Have happier and more fulfilling relationships
  • Become the individual they always thought they could be
  • Reconnect with life in a more rewarding and satisfying way
  • Live an unrestricted lifestyle ready to tackle any challenge
  • Express themselves like never before
  • Live a more accepting life, appreciating uniqueness and imperfection
  • Experience a more stable work environment
  • Freedom from medication and/or drug use
  • Reconnect with their faith and feel God’s presence
  • Have a closer relationship with God

These are just a few of the many benefits healing and a return to renewed health can bring.

Here is a listing of common anxiety symptoms.

Visit our “Impact Of Anxiety Disorder” article for information about how anxiety disorder can severely impact a person’s life.

It’s been long known that anxiety and stress cause an increase in activity in the fear center of the brain (the amygdala and other parts of the brain) and a decrease in activity in the executive function parts of the brain (the prefrontal cortex and others).

However, this is the first time brain scans have been used to examine how emotion-regulation circuits are changed by anxiety and chronic stress in children.

The takeaway, however, is not that the brain is malfunctioning or damaged in some way due to anxiety, but that the brain is responding the way it’s supposed to when we think we are in danger. This change in brain function is an integral part of the body’s survival mechanism.

We explain this change in brain function in more detail in our “Stress Response” article.

We can remedy this change by behaving calmly instead of anxiously. As we use calming behavior, the executive function parts of the brain increase in activity, and the fear center decreases. Thus, restoring our ability to regulate our emotions.

So, it’s not that we can’t regulate our emotions when we’re anxious, but a matter of learning how so that we can gain more control over our emotions when we are anxious.

Recovery Support members can read the articles “Hyperstimulation And Its Effects,” “The Rational Brain And The Emotional Brain,” and the “Natural Ways To Shift The Body Out Of ‘Emergency Mode’” in chapter 14 for more information about how anxiety changes brain function and how to regain emotional control.

You can read the press release about this research below:

Stanford study finds stronger one-way fear signals in brains of anxious kids

Signals from the brain’s fear center make it more difficult for anxious and stressed children to regulate their emotions, a first-of-its-kind brain scanning study from Stanford shows.

In chronically stressed or anxious children, the brain’s fear center sends signals to the decision-making part of the brain that make it harder to regulate negative emotions, according to new research from the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The findings, which was published April 21 in Biological Psychiatry, come from the first study to use brain scans to examine how emotion-regulation circuits are changed by anxiety and chronic stress in children. The children studied were 10 or 11 years old, a developmental stage when vulnerability to mood-regulation disorders, such as anxiety and depression, becomes entrenched.

The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the nature of the signals between two parts of the brain: the amygdalae, almond-shaped nerve clusters on the right and left sides of the brain that function as its fear centers; and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a brain region involved in executive functions such as decision making and emotion regulation.



Advertisement - Article Continues Below



“The more anxious or stress-reactive an individual is, the stronger the bottom-up signal we observed from the amygdala to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex,” said the study’s senior author, Vinod Menon, PhD, the Rachael L. and Walter F. Nichols, MD, Professor and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “This indicates that the circuit is being hijacked in more anxious children, and it suggests a common marker underlying these two clinical measures, anxiety and stress reactivity.”

Victor Carrion, MD, a co-author of the study and professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, said, “This study shows that the communication between our emotional centers and our thinking centers becomes less fluid when there is significant stress. You want that connection to be strongly signaling back and forth. But stress and anxiety of a certain level seem to interrupt that process.”

Carrion is the director of the Stanford Early Life Stress and Pediatric Anxiety Program, and is the John A. Turner, MD, Endowed Professor for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Lead authorship of the paper is shared by researcher Stacie Warren, PhD, and postdoctoral scholar Yuan Zhang, PhD.

Kids react to images

The study included 45 students in a California community with predominantly low-income residents who often face high levels of adversity. All 45 children had their anxiety levels and stress responses measured using standard behavioral questionnaires. Although their exposure to stress was potentially high, none were diagnosed with mood disorders.

To test how the children’s brains responded as they were trying to regulate negative emotions, the scientists conducted functional MRI scans while the study participants looked at two types of images, neutral and aversive. Neutral images showed pleasant scenes, such as someone taking a walk, whereas aversive images showed potentially distressing scenes, such as a car crash.

The children received instructions about responding to each image. For all the neutral images and half the aversive images, they were asked to look at them and respond to them naturally, rating their emotional state on a numerical scale after seeing each one. They were asked to look at the other half of the aversive images and try to reduce any negative reactions they had by telling themselves a story to make the pictures seem less upsetting — a story such as, “This car crash looks bad, but the people in the vehicles weren’t hurt.” After the kids tried to modify their emotional reaction, they again rated their emotional state on the numerical scale.

As the researchers expected, the children reported less negative emotions after being asked to reappraise their reactions to aversive images.

Using the brain-scan data, the researchers tested the strength and direction of interactions between the amygdala, the fear center, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the reasoning center, while the children viewed the images. Although the children with different levels of anxiety and stress reactivity reported similar reductions in their negative emotions when asked to reappraise the aversive images, their brains were doing different things.

More stress leads to less control of emotional reaction

The more anxious or stressed the child, the stronger the directional signals from the right amygdala to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. No such effects were seen in the reverse direction — that is, there was no increase in signaling from the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex to the amygdala. Higher levels of anxiety were associated with less positive initial reactions to aversive images, less ability to regulate emotional reaction in response to aversive images, and more impulsive reactions during reappraisal of aversive images. Higher stress reactivity was linked with less controlled, more impulsive reactions when reappraising aversive images, suggesting that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is less able to carry out its job.

Not only do the findings reveal how the brain can be changed by anxiety, they also act as a baseline for future studies to test interventions that may help children manage their anxiety and stress responses, the scientists said.

“We need to be more mindful about intervening,” Menon said. “These results show that the brain is not self-correcting in anxious children.”

“Thinking positively is not something that happens automatically,” Carrion said. “In fact, automatically we think negatively. That, evolutionarily, is what produced results. Negative thoughts are automatic thoughts, and positive thoughts need to be practiced and learned.”

The paper’s other Stanford co-authors are former research assistants Katherine Duberg and Sarah-Nicole Bostan; postdoctoral scholar Percy Mistry, PhD; Weidong Cai, PhD, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences; former postdoctoral scholar Shaozheng Qin, PhD; and former staff researcher Aarthi Padmanabhan, PhD.

This work was completed in partnership with the Ravenswood City, Alum Rock and Orchard school districts and Pure Edge Inc., which provides mindfulness curricula for children, and supported by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, the National Institutes of Health (grants EB022907, NS086085 and MH121069), the Stanford Maternal Child Health Research Institute and the Stanford Institute for Computational & Mathematical Engineering.

Media Contacts

ERIN DIGITALE
Tel 650-724-9175
digitale@stanford.edu

MARGARITA GALLARDO
Tel 650-723-7897
mjgallardo@stanford.edu

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our Anxiety and Other Mental Health Statistics page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including the anxiety disorder statistics and facts.

References

  1. Anxiety And Depression Association Of America. "Facts & Statistics." AADA, 18 June 2020. https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
  1. Bandelow, Borwin, and Michawlis, Sophie. "Epidemiology of anxiety disorders in the 21st century." Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, Sep 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610617/
  1. National Institute of Mental Health. "Any Anxiety Disorder." Retrieved 8 June 2020, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml
  1. Government of Canada. "Mood and anxiety disorders in Canada." Retrieved 8 June, https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/mood-anxiety-disorders-canada.html
  1. Konnopka, Alexander, and Konig, Hannah. "Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis." Pharmaeconomics, Jan 2020, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31646432/
  1. Government of Canada. "Report from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System: Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Canada, 2016." 21 June 2016. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/report-canadian-chronic-disease-surveillance-system-mood-anxiety-disorders-canada-2016.html