The anxiety epidemic sweeping the UK

The anxiety epidemic sweeping the UK

Anxiety is a growing epidemic affecting one in every 25 people in the UK. Around 8.2 million people now suffer with the condition, making it the most common form of mental illness amongst Brits.

The stress of modern life is making it harder than ever for those who are prone to the condition to cope. Although many people dismiss anxiety as something trivial or something ‘we’ll get over’, if left untreated anxiety can lead to a range of other disorders including depression, and can even lead to suicide attempts. It can also have a disastrous effect on the immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to physical illness.

Who’s at risk?

A study carried out by Cambridge University has found that women, the under-35s and those with chronic illnesses are most at risk of suffering from anxiety.

Women show as twice as likely to suffer compared to men. It’s thought that this is likely to come down to a combination of factors including:

  • Women typically have less disposable income than men yet they still have the same financial pressures
  • Trying to combine careers with motherhood
  • Pregnant women are particularly prone to suffering with anxiety because of changes in hormone levels and the prospect of parenthood can be daunting. Pregnant women are most likely to develop OCD before or immediately after the birth of their baby
  • Women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety because they tend to be more open about mental health problems compared to men

The stress and pain of living with a chronic illness is physically and mentally difficult so it’s easy to understand why this can raise the risk of anxiety. Studies have found that 32% of people with MS suffer from anxiety, as do 23% of cancer patients.

The under-35s have been found to be the group most at risk of anxiety. With pressures such as finding a job, climbing the housing ladder, getting married, having children and living the ‘perfect’ life, young peoples’ lives are under the microscope more and more, and they are finding it difficult to cope.

With an annual increase in demand of about 10% for counselling services, there has been particular concern about the rising number of students who are struggling to cope with university life.

Whether they’re heading back to campus to complete their degree or just beginning their studies, today’s students are faced with a growing list of anxieties including:

  • University fees are at an all-time high resulting in large amounts of debt
  • Because of the cost of going to university, students feel more pressure to perform academically and achieve top marks in exams and coursework
  • Fear of not living up to expectations
  • Uncertainties about job prospects once they leave university
  • Living away from home for the first time and being away from friends and family can be daunting and overwhelming
  • Social media has fuelled a culture of constant comparison and a sense of inadequacy
  • It’s common for parents to split up when their child goes to university. This alone is enough to cause feelings of anxiety and often the family home is sold, leaving young people feeling vulnerable and unsupported

A report from the Higher Education Funding Council for England also warned that students need help with more serious problems. As well as traditional issues such as homesickness, an increasing number of students are suffering from severe anxiety, depression or low mood. Additionally, increasing numbers of students are at high risk of harming themselves.

What can you do if you suffer from anxiety?

There is plenty of help available if you do suffer from anxiety.

Talking to a doctor is often the first step for many people. Your GP will be able to advise you how you can improve your lifestyle to alleviate your symptoms. In serious cases, they may even prescribe anti-anxiety drugs.

Simple steps you can take yourself include reducing your caffeine intake, consuming less sugar, quitting smoking, exercising more, and drinking less alcohol. Spending time with loved ones, taking up a hobby and reading self-help books are also great ways of reducing any feelings of anxiety.

If you think that you or someone you know could be suffering with anxiety, please feel free to contact Life Works in the strictest of confidence and we will be able to discuss the different treatment options with you including cognitive behavioural therapy, group counselling and individual sessions.

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