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National Survey on Drug Use and Health
Spotlight
June 02, 2016
Adults with Less Education Most Likely to Have a Past Year Anxiety Disorder
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Past year anxiety disorder among adults aged 18 or older, by education level: 2008 to 20124

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Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive distress, fear, and avoidance. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health’s 2008 to 2012 Mental Health Surveillance Study (MHSS), an estimated 12.9 million adults aged 18 or older (5.7 percent) had one or more anxiety disorders in the past year.1,2 This included 3.9 million adults who had less than a high school education, 3.3 million who were high school graduates, 2.8 million who had some college, and 3.0 million who had a college education or more. Adults with less than a high school education were more likely to have anxiety disorders than adults with more years of schooling (12.9 vs. 5.0 to 4.3 percent). Although the MHSS results cannot be used to determine whether anxiety stopped people from finishing high school, having an anxiety disorder can lower the odds of graduating from high school and the odds of attending college.3 Not finishing school can affect a person’s well-being and success in life.  

Treatment and prevention programs for anxiety can help people stay in or succeed in school. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides information on treating anxiety disorders: https://www.samhsa.gov/disorders/mental#anxiety.

1.    Karg, R. S., Bose, J., Batts, K. R., Forman-Hoffman, V. L., Liao, D., Hirsch, E., Pemberton, M. R., Colpe, L. J., & Hedden, S. L. (2014). CBHSQ Data Review: Past year mental disorders among adults in the United States: Results from the 2008-2012 Mental Health Surveillance Study. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  https://www.samhsa.gov/data
2.    To meet criteria for an anxiety disorder, anxiety, fear, and/or avoidance must represent a change from typical functioning, and the anxiety-related problems must be accompanied by clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.To meet criteria for an anxiety disorder, anxiety, fear, and/or avoidance must represent a change from typical functioning, and the anxiety-related problems must be accompanied by clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.
3.    Mojtabai, R., Stuart, E. A., Hwang, I., Eaton, W. W., Sampson, N., & Kessler, R. C. (2015). Long-term effects of mental disorders on educational attainment in the National Comorbidity Survey ten-year follow-up. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 50, 1577-1591.
4.    The difference between the following categories is statistically significant at the .05 level: less than a high school education versus high school graduate, less than a high school education versus some college, and less than a high school education versus college graduate or more.