Anxiety by the numbers

Staff Writer

The journey to uncovering the answers as to why the rates of anxiety are increasing as we progress through the newer generations is not as much a mystery as some tend to believe.

Over the past few decades, the world itself has changed in a number of ways and with it so have those who inhabit it—teenagers most of all.

A review done in 2014 of 19 studies conducted in 12 different countries shows adolescent boys and girls have been experiencing more depression and anxiety than they were over a decade ago, with girls having nearly double the anxieties and worries compared to boys.

Based on numerous research studies (the Nuffield Foundation being one of the many organizations who have conducted them) anxiety, depression and behavioural problems have increased considerably over the past 30 to 40 years.

Studies show (Nuffield Foundation’s Changing Adolescence Programme) those born in the 2000s and on are twice as likely to see the divorce of their parents compared to those their age 30 years ago, but they are also far more likely to spend more time with their parents while also being more willing to share information with them.

According to the study, the reports from adolescences around the ages of 15 and 16 saying they frequently feel anxious or depressed has doubled during the last 30 years, from one in 30 to two in 30 for boys, and one in 10 to two in 10 for girls.

Evidence has proven such increases have leveled out over the years as there was no rise of emotional problems between 1999 and 2004.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. and affect around 18 per cent of the population. While anxiety disorders are able to be treated, only about one third of those struggling are receiving treatment.

Based on research done by the ADAA, anxiety disorders are developed from a number of complex risk factors. These include genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events.

It isn’t unheard of or even uncommon for a person with anxiety to suffer from depression or the other way around. Nearly half of those who have been diagnosed with symptoms of depression have also been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Many people suffering from an anxiety disorder have a co-occurring physical illness, which can make their symptoms worse and cause the recovery process to be far more difficult.

Research also shows children with anxiety who have been untreated are more likely to do poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences and are more likely to engage in substance abuse.