Anxiety disorders surging in the UK since 2008

Feelings of fear and anxiety are normal, especially when a person faces an impending danger. In some people, however, they feel anxious without any reason. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a condition that is characterized by persistent and excessive worry or fear about a multitude of factors, making a person overly concerned about work, family, health, and other issues.

A new report by researchers at the University College London shows that there has been a surge of anxiety cases in the United Kingdom over the past decade, with the financial crash, Brexit, social media, and climate change, and now COVID-19.

Anxiety in the U.K.

In the study, published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers aimed to analyze and examine the temporal changes in the recording of generalized anxiety in primary care and initial pharmacologic treatments.

To arrive at the study findings, the team calculated the annual incidence rates of GAD diagnoses and symptoms from 795 UK general practices contributing to The Health Improvement Network (THIN) database from 1998 to 2018.

The team has found that GAD has increased among young adults, affecting 30 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 24, and has increased across the board among both and women below 55 years old. For women, the increase was from 17 to 23 per 1,000 person-years at risk (PYAR),  while for men, the rate increased from 8 to 11 per 1,000 PYAR.

Further, there has been a small increase in both genders aged 25 to 34 and 35 to 44 years old, while anxiety rates among older people remained stable.

“We observed a substantial increase in general practitioner consulting for generalized anxiety and depression recently, concentrated within younger people and in particular women,” the team concluded in the study.

Possible causes

The rates of anxiety levels increase from 1998, but had an explosion in 2008, especially among young women. Prof. Nick Freemantle, one of the study researchers, said that the study findings highlight the human cost of what was happening in the society in that year – a recession.

The sudden increase of anxiety diagnoses in that year may reflect the problems in the society, including unemployment, particularly in younger populations. These are young people who were just starting their careers, and they lose their jobs.

Freemantle also said that a mixture of many factors might have fueled the increase in GAD diagnoses, including recession, a vote to leave Europe, climate change, social media, and a change of attitude towards an anxiety disorder.

The researchers said that based on the findings, the U.K. has a growing problem with anxiety disorders, and this could impact the lives of people.

What is generalized anxiety disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a condition wherein people feel extremely worried or nervous about several factors, such as health, family problems, and money. On some occasions, they feel anxious without any reason. People with GAD find it hard to control their fear and anxiety, which may negatively impact their daily tasks.

The common signs and symptoms of GAD include persistent worrying or anxiety, which may be out of proportion, perceiving situations as threatening, overthinking, the difficulty of handling uncertainty, problems with concentration, and the inability to relax. The condition may also have physical symptoms such as nausea, irritability, sweating, trembling, trouble sleeping, and nervousness, or being easily startled.

GAD is treatable by medicines and therapy, and those who have the condition may need to consult with their healthcare provider.

Journal reference:
Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Written by

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.


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