How Prevalent is Anxiety?

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) is a project that was undertaken in 1990 to identify the prevalence of mental health issues and the burden they place on people all over the world. The project revealed that anxiety and depression contributed significantly to the global burden of mental health issues.

However, the GBD looked only at a few anxiety-related issues, including posttraumatic stress, panic, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and did not distinguish further anxiety conditions, such as social anxiety, phobia, and separation anxiety. Therefore, the results related to anxiety prevalence could be distorted.

In an effort to gauge a more accurate assessment of global burden of anxiety, A.J. Baxter of the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, Policy, and Evaluation Group in Australia recently led a thorough examination of the latest data from the GBD. Baxter looked at data from 44 countries comprised in 87 studies and found that overall the prevalence of anxiety worldwide is approximately 7.3%. Baxter noticed that the rates were lower in African countries, with only 5.3% anxiety prevalence, but as high as 10.4% in Anglo-Saxon and European cultures. This estimate of 7.3% for any diagnosis of anxiety is much higher than the previous estimates that were as low as 2.8%.

Anxiety appeared to be more prevalent in nonconflict exposed cultures, which contradicts earlier findings. Also, poorer countries and developing cultures had lower rates of anxiety than more developed societies. Low income has been shown to be a risk factor for anxiety, but based on these findings the income level may only be a risk if it is significantly low for the region.

Baxter also believes that perhaps the diagnostic tools in developing countries are not as advanced as those in other countries, and that could account for lower reporting of anxiety. Baxter added, “Specific attention should be paid to cultural differences in responses to survey instruments for anxiety disorders.” Additional research into these specific findings should be done to clarify these results.

Baxter, A. J., et al. (2013). Global Prevalence of Anxiety Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression. Psychological Medicine 43.5 (2013): 897-910. ProQuest. Web.

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  • Willow Wood

    Willow Wood

    May 31st, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    I think what is more important than the levels of anxiety in different countries and regions is that we as a world are an anxious lot. We are bringing this onto ourselves and that all of us, no matter which region or country we’re from, need better way of managing it. And managing it will not occur until there is awareness. So that is the first step that needs to be taken. And we need to start as soon as we can. There are more and more children being born every day, let us not let them enter a world of anxiety, let them enter a world where there is minimal anxiety and there are ways in which one can handle it.

  • Danna


    June 1st, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    Are you telling me that nations that tend to be more conflict heavy actually experience less anxiety than countries that do not? That has to be the craziest thing I have heard all day. There has to be something wrong with the diagnosis in those places, because surely you worry a lot more for your safety and for that of your family if there is the chance of a bomb exploding around you every day?

  • lisa O

    lisa O

    June 3rd, 2013 at 3:45 AM

    Well. no matter the reason behind the anxiety if you don’t know what particularly causes it then there is no hope to cure it.

    Anxiety in my opinion is a symptom of something much larger. Get to that, get to the real problem

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