Mental Health Foundation: UK society becoming more fearful

The Mental Health Foundation has warned people in the UK are becoming more fearful, leading to increasing levels of anxiety disorders, in a report today.

A survey of 2,250 adults for the charity found 37% were more frightened or anxious than they used to be, compared with 28% who were not, while 77% thought the world had become more frightening in the past 10 years.

The foundation linked the result to government figures showing an increase from 13.3% to 15% in the proportion of people suffering from anxiety disorders in England from 1993-2007.

Links to depression and heart disease

It also said fear and anxiety were strongly linked to depression as well as a range of physical health problems, including coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and asthma.

The report cited a number of causes for increasing levels of fear:-

  • A ‘culture of fear’ evident in the way news coverage gives prominence to worst-case scenarios, such as predictions that the “Millennium Bug” would paralyse computer systems on 1 January 2000.
  • The breakdown of social bonds, weakening people’s ability to deal with problems. Four times as many people live alone compared with 50 years ago.

Call for mental health promotion

The charity called for a nationwide mental health promotion campaign targeting anxiety and fear and raising awareness of how people can recognise and manage fearful thoughts and feelings.

It also said therapies recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to treat anxiety, including cognitive behavioural therapy, should be available in all primary care trusts.

Modern world tests resilience

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Dr Andrew McCulloch said: “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. A mental health promotion campaign that shows individuals how to look after their own mental health woudl be of immense public benefit.”

He said the UK only allocated 0.1% of investment on adult mental health services to promotion and needed to follow the example of countries such as Australia that have invested more heavily in public mental health.

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