Happiness, Stress and Anxiety

I don’t want to bore you with too many statistics today, but here are a few that are worth noting:

The most common mental health problem in Australia, according to an ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) study was anxiety disorder.  In fact it affected 14% of all people aged 16-85 years in the 12 months prior to the survey.  With women more likely to experience the disorder (18%) than men (11%).

“In 2007, there were about 872,000 people who had a mental health disorder and felt they had an unmet need for assistance (including 288,000 people with a mental illness who did not use services but who felt they had one or more unmet needs).”  ABS Australian Social Trends 4102.0 2009.

Only 25% of surveyed professional workers in Australia say they laugh and have fun at work.  (Source:  May 1, 2010 Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend magazine, Number Crunch)

They’re pretty damning statements.

What is behind these figures exactly?

I expect many things.

All reasons, I don’t know about.. but certainly it might include some of the following:

  • work environments, including professional ones, still aren’t as friendly and open as they could and should be,
  • people are embarrassed to talk about their problems,
  • people don’t really understand their mental difficulties and are anxious about seeking help and where to seek help,
  • substance use can start out ‘being a social thing’ but can be masking a deeper problem, then later adding to the problem.
  • geographic location is a reason why some people do not access services. (While Medicare-funded psychiatrist services were accessed at the rate of 96 services per 1,000 people for Australia, only 19 in 1000 were in “very remote areas”, but 113 per thousand in major cities. (Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006): 2004-5 National Health Survey; Summary of Results.? ABS cat. no. 4364.0, p 13.
  • Many mental health issues show up when people are relatively young. e.g. they are higher for men aged 16-34 years (23%) and women aged 16-24 years (30%) compared to other age groups.  Typically years of change, identity establishment, peer group pressure, intense study, etc.  (And I’m wondering here if some 16-year-olds ever really re-adjusted after that awkward sleep-phase-delayed adolescent period that combined with Higher School Certificate exam pressures!),
  • a problem is ignored by being generalized “you’re having a mid-life crisis”, “everyone’s tired after they have a baby”, “you’re an idealist, no-one really loves their job”, “not much you can do about it anyway”, etc.
  • lack of ‘real’ friends who are willing to get down and dirty with details, and provide sensible advice and encouragement to get help.  Of course, that’s when you find out who your real friends are, when you are having a ‘rough trot’.  But it isn’t fun to see them off to their next party while you are suffering, and don’t know where to turn.

The selected disorders studied by the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing can be separated into three groups:  anxiety, mood and substance use disorders.

Here is a downloadable 6 page report on mental health that you might like to read:


Anxiety comes in many forms, and can include panic attacks.

In the best selling book The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Dr. Edmund J Bourne

he names the following causes of Anxiety Disorders:

Long-Term, Predisposing Causes

1.  Heredity

2.  Childhood Circumstances

  • Your parents communicate an overly cautious view of the world
  • Your parents are overly critical and set excessively high standards
  • Emotional insecurity and dependence
  • Your parents suppress your self-assertiveness

3.  Cumulative Stress Over Time

Biological Causes

1.  Physiology of panic

2.  Panic attacks

3.  Generalized anxiety

4.  Obsessive-compulsive disorder

5.  Medical conditions that can cause panic attacks or anxiety.

Short-Term, Triggering Causes

1.  Stressors that precipitate panic attacks:

  • significant personal loss
  • significant life change
  • stimulants and recreational drugs

2.  Conditioning and the origin of phobias

3.  Trauma, simple phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Maintaining Causes

1.  Avoidance of phobic situations

2.  Anxious self-talk

3.  Mistaken beliefs

4.  Withheld feelings

5.  Lack of assertiveness

6.  Lack of self-nurturing skills

7.  Muscle tension

8.  Stimulants and other dietary factors

9.  High-stress lifestyle

10.  Lack of Meaning or Sense of Purpose.

So while this blog doesn’t list direct solutions, knowing the framework of anxiety and stress helps us understand the stressors better.

Consequently it focuses our attention on behaviours, expectations and thought processes that are unhealthy from a mental health perspective.

Are you being too hard on your children?  Are you allowing the people around you to empower their own decision making?  Are you setting excessively high standards on the people around you and yourself?

Are you assertively pursuing what you really want? Are you containing your emotions too much?

Recently in MX News, Sydney (October 5, 2010) there was an article “Fight for Your Marriage” where it said that “… couples in which both were open to discussion had lower divorce rates.? But those in which one spouse spoke up and the other went quiet were destined for marital failure.”  (Original source:  University of Michigan research, Kira Birditt).

And finally, self care in times of personal loss and significant life change is very important.

What anxiety-causing behaviors and patterns do you see in our society?

We’d love to see your comments below.




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