Stress is causing a generation of anxious Brits worrying about everything from money to bird flu
The report, In the Face of Fear, calls for a campaign to cut ‘institutionally-driven fear’
By Jenny Hope
More than seven million Britons are living with anxiety problems, almost a million more than a decade ago, a report reveals.
Two in three say the financial downturn has caused them to be anxious, fuelled by 24-hour news and ‘worst case’ images used by politicians.
Mental health experts believe that fear and anxiety could actually make the economic crisis worse and result in a longer recession.
Knife crime, MRSA, bird flu and terrorism are among other issues contributing to a ‘culture of fear’, says a report from the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) charity.
Even measures to tackle crime such as CCTV cameras may be counter-productive because they intensify fears.
The report, In the Face of Fear, calls for a campaign to cut ‘institutionally-driven fear’ and raise awareness of mental health problems.
It says: ‘The more fearful people feel in the general population, the more will be tipped over into diagnosable anxiety disorders.’
A poll of 2,246 adults for the MHF report found 77 per cent believed the world had become a more frightening place in the last ten years.
Asked specifically about the economic crisis, 49 per cent said they were anxious about money, with 66 per cent experiencing fear or anxiety about the current economic situation.
The MHF says fear is partly driving the economic crisis because emotion overrides logical thinking and this could hinder efforts to escape it.
It says: ‘Individuals and institutions – keen to protect themselves – are now too afraid to lend, spend and invest, despite the fact that these actions could assist in ending the recession.’
Research shows people with anxiety are at increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
Anxiety has also been linked to increased incidence of gastrointestinal problems, arthritis, migraine, allergies, thyroid disease and chronic respiratory disorders such as asthma.
Dr Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: ‘This report shows that fear is having a serious negative impact on the mental and physical health of the nation.
‘The modern world will test our resilience again and again, and people need to know how to process their emotions better to prevent harm to their mental and physical health.
‘Prevention campaigns about physical illnesses like heart disease and cancer are often mounted, but less than 0.1 per cent of adult mental health investment is allocated to mental health promotion.’
Care services minister Phil Hope said: ‘During the last ten years, we’ve seen major improvements in the mental health services available, but now we need to develop a dynamic new approach, which actively helps create more mentally healthy and resilient communities.’