Measuring people’s mental health is a tricky task. Researchers disagree on whether certain mental health conditions are becoming more or less prevalent, as well as the reasons why they may be more common in one area than another. However, there is data showing which countries have the highest rates of anxiety disorders.
In this article, we’ll dive into the figures and show you the world’s most anxious countries. We’ll also take a quick look at some possible factors that could influence the prevalence of anxiety.
To work out which country was the most anxious in the world, we first needed to understand what we meant by anxiety.
Though this might sound like a simple question, the reality is that anxiety can either come as a short-term feeling or a long-term condition. This is the difference between the kinds of anxiety you might experience before a job interview, for example, and those that can persist over months or years and begin to seriously impact upon your daily life.
Ascertaining how many people have short-term anxiety isn’t easy. You could look to Gallup’s Global Emotions Report, which found that Afghanistan had the highest levels of worry (80%) and stress (74%) of any country in the world as of 2021.
However, while emotions such as worry and stress are related to anxiety, they’re not quite the same. Additionally, these figures are likely to be influenced to a large extent by events—in the case of Afghanistan, for example, the 2021 Taliban takeover of the country’s government. This doesn’t provide us with a set of data we can compare easily from one country to another.
Instead, we’re focusing on countries where anxiety disorders are particularly prevalent. Doing so gives us the opportunity to compare different kinds of countries more easily by taking a look at how their populations are affected over the long term.
Which country has the highest rate of anxiety?
We’ve used data from the Lancet to work out which countries experience the highest rates of anxiety disorders in the world. To view the top ten, check out the slideshow below.The World's Most Anxious Countries by Andrew Boardman
Why are some countries more anxious than others?
It’s not always clear why a certain country might experience higher levels of anxiety than another. For example, the baseline prevalence of anxiety disorder is almost 70% higher in Norway than it is in neighbouring Finland.
Meanwhile, data indicates that anxiety disorders are higher amongst wealthier countries, with a baseline level of 5.4% in high-income nations versus a global average of 3.8%. There’s virtually no correlation between the top ten countries where Gallup recorded the highest level of negative experiences—all of which were low or middle-income—and the top ten countries by anxiety disorder prevalence, which are almost all high-income.
Discerning why levels of anxiety are higher in one location than another can be difficult, but a few possible reasons are:
- Perceptions of mental health — mental health conditions may come with greater social stigma than in some countries than in others, leading people to avoid categorising themselves as having an anxiety disorder.
- Cultural differences — attitudes and norms vary from country to country, affecting groups within those cultures. For example, women’s role in society may be accepted in some societies or suppressed in others.
- Traumatic events — certain events may affect the psyche of entire nations or ethnic groups, such as war or natural disasters. In New Zealand, for example, which saw only 25 COVID-19 deaths in 2020, the increase in anxiety disorders that year was minimal. Meanwhile, in Brazil, which saw 173 thousand deaths that year, the increase was much more marked. This may continue to have a lasting effect as individuals in these societies go on to deal with COVID anxiety.
- Methodology — concepts may not naturally translate from one language or culture to another. This can make it difficult to compare data from different countries.
Anxiety by country: summary
While we know which countries experience the highest levels of anxiety, research is still underway as to why prevalence varies from one location to the next. Everything from cultural identities to differing views on health can play a role. Muddying the waters even further is the impact of COVID-19, which is just beginning to be understood.
At ManageMinds, we’re keeping up to date with the latest studies on anxiety disorders. Check out our blog for up-to-date info on all things mental health.
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