OPINION: Anxiety Rampant in Seattle

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The U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey conducted a new survey from Sept. 29 to Oct. 11. In this, 54.5 percent of surveyed adults from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties said they felt “nervous, anxious or on edge” for several days or more during the last week. Accounting for about 1.8 million people, this is the largest percentage among the major metro areas in the U.S. (The Household Pulse Survey monitors the 15 largest metro areas in the U.S, Seattle being 15th on the list.)

Houston was the only other major metro area with a mark above 50 percent, but it begs the question: what is causing people this anxiety? Why specifically Seattle and Houston? It’s not an isolated incident, either. The Household Pulse Survey publishes new data every two weeks, and Seattle ranked first or second in this category in each of the last six issues. It’s worth noting that Atlanta, who had the lowest percentage in the survey this time, still had a mark above 35 percent.

It might help locate the issues if we break down the demographics. 28,758 people in Washington partook in the most recent mental health survey, and percentage calculations include those who participated in the survey but may not have indicated a response for every question. Looking specifically at those in the King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, the largest age group demographic is predictably younger people, and the data proves that those young/working age adults are disproportionately affected by anxiety:

  • Those in the age range 18-29 made up the most members and reported at 66 percent
  • Those in the age range 30-39 reported at 71 percent
  • Those in the age range 40-49 reported at 49 percent
  • The fourth-most populated demographic, 60-69, reported at 45 percent

Breaking it down from a few other perspectives, women reported at a rate of 59 percent versus men who reported at 50 percent. Those who identified as within the LGBT+ spectrum reported anxiety at 71 percent, while those who didn’t reported it at 53 percent. The data highlights very predictable trends. But if you don’t focus on the differences between the various demographic numbers, it highlights something substantially more important:

Anxiety is everywhere. It plagues the country, and particularly us in the Pacific Northwest. It does not discriminate. 59 percent of women feeling anxiety doesn’t change that 50 percent of men also do. 71 percent of those who identify as LGBT+ feeling anxiety doesn’t mean that the 53 percent of those who do not identify as LGBT+ don’t also feel it. The 45 percent of elderly people feeling anxiety undermines the old stereotype that they’re unfeeling and consider the younger generation weak. Those are big numbers! We as people are suffering, and it is worth knowing that we are not alone.

We live in a time of turmoil in the United States. Everything in the news and political world is acting to divide us. A pandemic has ravaged the country to the point where many Bellevue College students will have enrolled and graduated without so much as meeting one of their classmates or teachers in person. It shook the foundation of what it means to grow up and suddenly, young adults are going to be without the same social skills that school was supposed to help cultivate. The state of the economy is leaving countless people in a state of living paycheck to paycheck and having to worry about whether or not they will find themselves living in a tent on a moment’s notice. People are underpaid, overworked, tired, stressed, afraid and sometimes they don’t even know how they feel.

The important thing is that the data shows you, the person reading this, more than likely suffers from anxiety on a regular basis. I do too. Take care of yourself, because you’re worth it. Talk about it, don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking you’re alone or not worth it. If you’re reading this and you don’t deal with this same chronic anxiety, I hope you take away from this that most people aren’t as secure with themselves as you are. Be gentler and more understanding of your fellow humans. For all we know, a kind person might make their day a little more tolerable. We are all in this world together, for better or for worse. You probably can very well understand the issues that someone else is facing, even if you don’t go through them yourself. We can only do this together.