Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions in the United States. An estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.
However, the prevalence of anxiety disorders varies significantly between states. Here are the 10 most anxious states in America according to research:
1. West Virginia
West Virginia has the highest rate of any anxiety disorder among adults at 36.7%. Social anxiety disorder is most common, affecting 15.2% of West Virginian adults. High poverty rates, unemployment, low education levels, and lack of access to mental health services likely contribute to the high anxiety levels in the state. The COVID-19 pandemic has also taken a major toll on mental health in West Virginia.
Maine ranks second, with 34.4% of adults experiencing anxiety disorders. As in West Virginia, social anxiety disorder is the most prevalent type. Maine has above-average rates of substance abuse, which is frequently co-occurring with anxiety disorders. The state also has an aging population, and anxiety disorders are common among senior citizens. Harsh winters and isolation may be other factors leading to increased anxiety amongst Maine’s residents.
33.6% of Kentucky residents suffer from anxiety disorders, placing it third on the list. Generalized anxiety disorder affects 13.3% of adults in the state. Kentucky has high poverty and low education levels. It also ranks high for adverse childhood experiences like abuse and household dysfunction, which are linked to adult anxiety disorders. Like West Virginia, Kentucky was hit hard by the opioid crisis. The pandemic has amplified anxiety and mental health issues in the state.
Arkansas has an anxiety disorder rate of 32.6%. The state struggles with low rankings for mental health and access to care. Arkansas also has below-average economic and education outcomes. These socio-economic disadvantages likely contribute to the high anxiety rates. Arkansas additionally has above-average opioid prescription rates, indicating treatment-resistant mental health issues.
5. Rhode Island
Rhode Island’s anxiety disorder prevalence stands at 32.4%. Interestingly, it ranks near the top for access to mental health services. However, economic inequality in the state is quite high. Rhode Island also has a large population of elderly residents, who report heightened anxiety during the pandemic. High population density may also play a role in the state’s anxiety levels.
31.2% of Louisiana residents have an anxiety disorder. Natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina have had lasting mental health effects in the state. Louisiana also suffers from high poverty, low education, and inadequate healthcare access. State budget cuts have made it more difficult to access mental health services after Katrina. Discrimination may also contribute to anxiety amongst the state’s large African-American population.
7. New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s anxiety rate is 30.8%. The state has high rates of substance abuse, including opioids, which is linked to anxiety disorders. New Hampshire also faces shortages in mental health professionals. Long winters and isolation may be other factors impacting New Hampshire residents’ mental health. However, the state does have above-average economic rankings.
30.5% of Oklahoma’s population has an anxiety disorder. High rates of adverse childhood experiences and trauma are significant risk factors for anxiety in Oklahoma. Like neighboring states, Oklahoma also struggles with high poverty, unemployment, and low education outcomes. Tornadoes and severe weather events also undoubtedly contribute to the state’s collective anxiety.
29.9% of adults in Mississippi struggle with anxiety. Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the U.S. Access to mental health services is severely lacking. Discrimination and violence faced by the state’s African-American population lead to anxiety and trauma. Mississippi also frequently experiences natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and flooding that negatively impact mental health.
Rounding out the top 10 most anxious states is Indiana at 29.8%. Indiana faces above-average rates of mental illness and drug overdose deaths. The state has also been heavily impacted by the decline in manufacturing jobs in recent decades, contributing to economic anxiety. Insufficient access to mental health services further exacerbates anxiety disorders amongst Indiana residents.
While anxiety disorders are highly prevalent across the U.S., certain states face greater economic and social disadvantages that drive up anxiety rates. Factors like poverty, unemployment, education gaps, trauma, discrimination, isolation, inadequate healthcare access, and exposure to disasters all contribute to increased anxiety prevalence at the state level.
Continuing to improve access to mental health resources and addressing socio-economic disadvantages will be important for reducing anxiety across the U.S., especially in the most vulnerable states.