The Mental Health Foundation published research today showing that almost six in ten adults in Scotland (58%) experienced anxiety that interfered with their daily lives in the previous two weeks.
On the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week (15 to 21 May 2023), we are raising the alarm about the impact of anxiety across Scotland as we publish our new report, Uncertain Times: Anxiety in the UK and how to tackle it. The paper outlines the prevalence of anxiety across the population, the key drivers in the wake of the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis and recommendations for governments to reduce anxiety levels and support good mental health. Among the recommendations is a call for the development and delivery of a 10-year mental health strategy in Scotland that includes a focus on prevention and action across all government departments.
Polling of 1000 adults in Scotland (conducted on our behalf by Opinium) found that seven in ten people (70%) had felt anxious at least sometimes in the previous two weeks, while more than a quarter (27%) of those with feelings of anxiety felt anxious to the extent that it stopped them from doing what they’d like or need to do. One in five people (21%) felt anxious most or all of the time.
Despite anxiety being so common, stigma and shame play a part in how people deal with anxiety. More than four in ten adults in Scotland (44%) with feelings of anxiety keep it a secret. This suggests that although there has been progress in discussing mental health more openly in recent years, significant numbers of people are still not comfortable talking about their own experiences.
Worryingly, one in three people (30%) with feelings of anxiety say they are not coping well with those feelings. This is worrying because chronic (or long-term) anxiety is associated with a higher risk of physical or mental health problems.
The results of the polling make it clear that financial stress is giving rise to anxiety across Scotland, showing that existing support for people who are struggling does not go far enough. The most commonly reported cause of anxiety in the past two weeks was being able to afford to pay bills, reported by one-third (33%) of respondents, while 42% said that financial security would help prevent anxiety.
Julie Cameron, Associate Director at the Mental Health Foundation in Scotland, said:
“Across Scotland more than one million adults are experiencing levels of anxiety that is stopping them from living their lives, with many not speaking out and struggling to cope. More can and must be done to protect our mental health. A big focus of our Mental Health Awareness Week is to encourage people to share their experiences on anxiety and increase understanding of the steps we can take. However, the scale of the problems requires change that goes beyond individual action.
“We urge the Scottish Government to publish a cross-departmental mental health strategy for the next 10 years with a delivery plan that contains commitments on mental health from all departments including those that cover social security, housing, communities, education, and criminal justice.
“We welcome the commitment to funding the Communities Mental Health & Wellbeing Fund in this year, but it is underfunded and not able to support all the worthy applicant community organisations; funding needs to be increased so people can get preventative mental health support before they become unwell.”