DAILY / MAY 20, 2019  
Psychiatric News Update

Anxiety Around Finances, Safety Remain High, Poll Finds

Woman looking at bills
Respondents to a poll by APA found that finances, health, and safety continue to cause anxiety among Americans, although the level of anxiety was slightly down from a similar survey conducted last year. Many respondents also agreed that social media is not helping mental health and expressed particular concern about social media activity among children and teens. These and other findings were released Monday at the Annual Meeting.

Sixty-six percent of respondents expressed anxiety about keeping themselves and their family safe (compared with 68% last year), and a similar percentage expressed anxiety about paying bills and keeping up with expenses. In fact, a third of the respondents said they are “extremely anxious” about paying bills.

Respondents also identified health as a contributor to anxiety: 64% expressed anxiety about health compared with 68% last year, and 24% said they are “extremely anxious” about health.

“The poll results reinforce the fact that basic needs, such as personal safety or finances, have a large impact on a person’s mental well-being,” said APA President Altha Stewart, M.D. “We urge anyone who is struggling with anxiety, regardless of the reason, to seek treatment.”

The impact of politics on people’s mental health also has declined slightly. The percentage of respondents saying politics made them extremely or somewhat anxious dropped from 56% last year to 51% this year.

African Americans and Hispanic Americans showed reduced anxiety in the past year, although their overall level remained higher than that of Caucasians. Extreme anxiety about the impact of politics on daily life dropped from 30% to 13% among African Americans and from 22% to 15% among Hispanic Americans. African Americans also showed a decline in extreme anxiety about keeping themselves and their family safe (46% to 37%) and extreme anxiety about paying bills (47% to 33%).

The survey also found that respondents think that social media is problematic. Thirty-eight percent said social media usage is harmful to mental health, and only 5% agreed it has a positive impact.

While some like the ability of social media to help people stay connected to long-distance friends and family, there is evidence that it contributes to loneliness. When asked about the connection between social media and loneliness, 68% of the respondents agreed social media usage is related to feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Millennials were more likely to “completely agree” that a connection exists between social media and loneliness (32%) than baby boomers (17%). African Americans (33%) were more likely than whites (22%) and Hispanic Americans (25%) to completely agree on this relationship between social media and loneliness.

Across ages, genders, and ethnicities, most respondents—88%—expressed concern about social media use among children and teens. Responses of people with children were similar to those of people without children.

Fourteen percent reported using a social media app to support their mental health. Younger adults were much more likely than older adults to do so: 24% of millennials said they use a social media app to support their mental health compared with only 3% of baby boomers. Hispanic Americans (27%) and African Americans (17%) were more likely than whites (9%) to report using a social media app to support their mental health.

“These results reflect Americans’ concern with use of social media and its potential negative impacts,” said Stewart. “While social media can have benefits and help keep us connected to friends and family, it’s important for adults and for children and teens to balance social media use with other activities and connecting with others in real life.”

Responses to questions about gun violence roughly mirrored last year’s findings:

  • 84% of Americans consider gun violence a public health threat, compared with 87% last year.

  • 82% of Americans want Congress to do more about gun violence, compared with 85% in 2018.

  • 63% of Americans approve of government spending on gun violence research.

  • Findings on gun violence revealed a partisan divide: For instance, 77% of Democrats versus 48% of Republicans “strongly” or “somewhat” support funding for gun violence research.

These findings are from an APA-sponsored poll conducted online using ORC International’s CARAVAN Omnibus Survey. The surveys were collected from a nationally representative sample of 1,005 adults aged 18 years and older from April 4 to 7, 2019, and from similar polls of about 1,000 adults in March 2018 and April 2017. The margin of error is ±3.1 percentage points.

(Image: iStock/PeopleImages)


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