Searching Google for information about America’s most common anxieties may not be the most scientific research. But one opinion writer for The New York Times suggests, at the very least, it’s a snapshot of what’s worrying folks across this diverse country.
In an article titled “Fifty States of Anxiety,” Seth Stephens-Davidowitz said the informal barometer of American life, Google, showed the top searches for anxiety in 2016 have been related to travel, driving, separation, work, school and home.
That about covers the gamut of daily life.
In what could be a troubling trend, Google searches for anxiety have more than doubled in the past eight years. Or maybe it’s a hopeful trend and means more people are confronting anxiety and finding online resources to help deal with it.
“While Google searches may not be a perfect measure of anxiety, there is increasing evidence that searches on a health condition highly correlate with the number of people suffering from that condition,” said Stephens-Davidowitz. The rates of Google searches for anxiety in a state also correlate with other surveys measuring anxiety, he said.
In this informal survey of anxiety-causing issues, Stephens-Davidowitz found what he considers surprising information. Despite what he expected, which was more anxiety related to the stress of urban centers, he found that more Google searches on the topic were from rural states with lower than average levels of education and lower median incomes.
“The epicenter of anxiety, according to Google, is Presque Isle, Maine,” he said.
His survey showed that states hardest hit by the recession of 2008 registered higher rates of Google searches for anxiety-related issues during and after the economic crisis.
While it may be interesting, or even entertaining, to consider anxiety based on Google searches, national statistics show the seriousness of the issue.
More than 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from some type of anxiety disorder. That’s 18 percent of the population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
The most common anxiety disorders include panic disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety and phobias.
Even though searching online for resources may be a first step, the troubling statistics show that although anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.
Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth, “Fifty States of Anxiety,” The New York Times, Aug. 8, 2016
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Burden of Mental Illness,” Mental Health Basics, 2013
Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Facts and Statistics: Did You Know?” Silver Spring, Maryland, 2016