Anxiety Statistics: Telling the Tale

Anxiety is the most frequently-occurring mental disorder in the United States. Anxiety statistics show the very significant impact of this sometimes devastating condition.

Women are more than twice as likely to seek treatment for this condition. One reason for this gender discrepancy may be that men generally don’t admit to any kind of mental disorder. This means the numbers reported in anxiety statistics may actually be low.

General Anxiety Statistics

Anxiety disorders of one kind or another affect approximately 18% of the adult population between the ages of 18 and 54 in the U.S. This is about 40 million people. A significant number to be affected by a significant condition.

Some researchers and clinicians believe this number to be much higher, as high as 30% of the adult population, or 75 to 80 million people. A major reason for this higher estimate is the fact that many people either don’t seek help, may be misdiagnosed with another condition, or simply don’t know they have problems with anxiety.

According to one source that collects data on anxiety, over the last ten years 54% of women and 46% of men have experienced anxiety of one type or another.

Another source reported women to be 60% more likely than men to experience anxiety. The most frequent type of anxiety reported by women is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is because of the possibility of rape, which typically leads to PTSD. Whites of non-Hispanic descent are the ethnic group most likely by about 25% to experience anxiety, according to this source. Also, anxiety statistics report about half of children who experience anxiety are likely to develop an anxiety disorder. 

Even though anxiety disorders are very treatable, the anxiety statistics show only about one-third of sufferers of anxiety get treatment. Of that number, only about 10% received adequate treatment.

Anxiety Statistics Related to Specific Types

There are several specific types of anxiety that people can suffer from. Some have more than one of these types. Most people who experience anxiety also experience depression at the same time or at a short interval before or after their anxiety.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

GAD is the anxiety condition in which people worry about almost anything on nearly a continuous basis. This anxiety is not based in reality most of the time. Anxiety statistics show women to be twice as likely to suffer from this condition. About 3.1% of the U.S. adult population, or about 6.8 million people, exist with this condition. They are very likely to have other co-existing, or co-morbid, conditions, as well.

Panic Disorder.

Panic disorder is a condition in which severe anxiety attacks can happen “out of the blue” at any time. When this occurs, very significant fear of something terrible comes over the individual. Significant physical symptoms also come with this fear. Shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating, and rapid heart beat all serve to make the person fear he or she is having a heart attack. Panic attacks typically reach their peak in about ten minutes and last for 30 minutes or longer.

Once again, women are twice as likely to have panic disorder than men. However, in this case, as in all cases of anxiety, men probably are under-reported due to their typical unwillingness to seek help. Six million adults in the U.S. suffer from panic disorder, about 2.7% of the population. This disorder has a high probability of being associated with major depression.

Social Anxiety Disorder.

This anxiety condition typically presents as fear having to do with being in a social situation. The fear may show itself as great concern about being judged or evaluated negatively. Anxiety statistics show this disorder to be found about equally among women and men. Most people with this anxiety condition have suffered with it for 10 years or more before seeking help. Many of them first experience symptoms in their early teen years.

Specific Phobias.

Phobias are unreasonable fears of some object or situation that should not cause harm to them. Anxiety statistics report this condition to happen twice as often with women as men. It also typically begins early in life, sometimes as early as 7 years of age. Among U.S. adults, about 19 million, or 8.7%, suffer from one or more specific phobias.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  

This anxiety-based disorder occurs when the individual has some continuing thought, typically of some kind of disastrous event happening, that brings on a great deal of anxiety. In order to relieve this anxiety, the person goes through a series of repetitive acts that have some relevance to the thoughts. This kind of repetition can use up a great deal of time.

Anxiety statistics show this disorder to affect about 2.2 million U.S. adults, or about 1.0% of the population. An equal number of men and women suffer from this condition. About one-third of these adults had their first experience with OCD in childhood. Nineteen is the median age of onset, and about 25% first had symptoms as young as 14.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

This anxiety-like disorder is a complex of symptoms that all relate in some way to a traumatic event that occurred in their lives. Sometimes, the traumatic event occurs in childhood, and the person doesn’t experience severe symptoms until much later. Childhood sexual abuse strongly predicts the likelihood of developing PTSD.

Anxiety statistics reveal about 7.7 million American adults have PTSD. This is about 3.5% of the adult population. Women are more likely than men to experience PTSD, mainly due to their higher likelihood of the experience of rape.

One in eight children are affected by one or more anxiety disorders, according to the anxiety statistics. They are at higher risk of doing poorly in school, in missing out on social activities, and in getting involved with drugs or alcohol.

Social and Economic Burden

In addition to the human burden of suffering shouldered by individuals with any of the anxiety disorders, there is also an economic impact that affects everyone in the country. One report said the anxiety disorders have a cost to the country of more than $42 billion dollars a year. Of the $148 billion dollars spent on mental health care annually, over one-third of it goes for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Anxiety statistics show those with anxiety disorders are driven to consult their healthcare professionals three to five times more often than people without anxiety. These people are also six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychological problems than those with no anxiety issues.

Workplace anxiety takes a tremendous toll, also. It has been reported that as many as 41% of employees from many different industries say there is great anxiety in their place of work.

Anxiety takes a very real toll on academic performance, as well. One report showed about half of all college students to seek help for anxiety during their college careers.

The cost of anxiety doesn’t stop at the borders of the United States. Considering all of North America, 65% of the adult population take prescription medications every day. Forty-three percent take some kind of mood-altering medication on a regular basis.

Over 3.3 billion prescriptions were filled in America in 2002. That number is 12 times the population of the U.S. Paxil and Zoloft, two commonly-prescribed anxiolytics, were the 7th and 8th most common prescriptions in the U.S. in 2002.

Recreational drugs and alcohol are the most popular self-treatments for anxiety in both the U.S. and Canada. Anxiety statistics show 72% of Canadians consume alcohol every year. Fifty percent of all traffic fatalities involved alcohol, and over 70,000 Canadians are arrested for driving under the influence annually.

Of the people who have Cannabis Use Disorder, 10% also experience Social Anxiety Disorder. About 40% of those who try marijuana find their anxiety increases. Some recent anxiety statistics report the number of fatal auto accidents involving marijuana has tripled in the U.S.

Chances of Developing Anxiety

According to anxiety statistics, the following are an adult’s chances of developing an anxiety disorder in his or her lifetime.

Overall chances of developing any kind of anxiety disorder: 28.8%.

Chances of developing Generalized Anxiety Disorder: 5.7%.

Chances of developing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: 1.6%.

Chances of developing Panic Disorder: 4.7%.

Chances of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: 6.8%.

Chances of developing Social Phobia: 12.1%.

Chances of developing any other specific phobia: 12.5%.


Considering these anxiety statistics, it’s easy to see that anxiety is the most common mental health issue people face. Not only adults, but also children experience anxiety. In the stressful world in which we live, these numbers will likely increase. The human cost will continue to grow, as will the economic and social burden caused by this mental health condition. Anxiety may be seen as a “woman’s” condition since more females than males report suffering from it. However, as has been reported above, there is a great likelihood of many more men experiencing anxiety than is reported. One reason is that men don’t admit to suffering from anxiety. They have been conditioned to deal with their problems alone.