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The age of anxiety? It depends where you look: changes in STAI trait anxiety, 1970–2010

Booth, Rob, Sharma, Dinkar, Leader, Tirza (2015) The age of anxiety? It depends where you look: changes in STAI trait anxiety, 1970–2010. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 51 (2). pp. 193-202. ISSN 0933-7954. E-ISSN 1433-9285. (doi:10.1007/s00127-015-1096-0) (KAR id:49602)

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Population-level surveys suggest that anxiety has been increasing in several nations, including the USA and UK. We sought to verify the apparent anxiety increases by looking for systematic changes in mean anxiety questionnaire scores from research publications.


Results showed a significant anxiety increase worldwide, but the pattern was less clear in many individual nations. Our analyses suggest that any increase in anxiety in the USA and Canada may be limited to students, anxiety has decreased in the UK, and has remained stable in Australia.

Although anxiety may have increased worldwide, it might not be increasing as dramatically as previously thought, except in specific populations, such as North American students. Our results seem to contradict survey results from the USA and UK in particular. We do not claim that our results are more reliable than those of large population surveys. However, we do suggest that mental health surveys and other governmental sources of disorder prevalence data may be partially biased by changing attitudes toward mental health: if respondents are more aware and less ashamed of their anxiety, they are more likely to report it to survey takers. Analyses such as ours provide a useful means of double-checking apparent trends in large population surveys.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1007/s00127-015-1096-0
Uncontrolled keywords: Anxiety; Mental health; Psychiatric epidemiology; Stigmatization of mental health problems
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
Depositing User: Dinkar Sharma
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2015 08:47 UTC
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2020 04:12 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Sharma, Dinkar:
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