May 22, 2018
3 min read

APA poll reports America’s opinions on anxiety, gun violence, opioids

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Anita Everett, MD
Anita Everett

NEW YORK — Poll results presented at this year’s American Psychiatric Association annual meeting shed light on Americans’ opinions on anxiety, gun violence and opioid addiction.

In the past year, Americans’ anxiety levels dramatically increased, according to an APA press release. The poll included data from 1,000 U.S. adults who asked to rate their anxiety relating to health, safety, finances, relationships and politics.

The 2018 national mean anxiety score (based on a 0-100 scale) was 51, which is five points higher than the 2017 score, the polling results showed. Anxiety scores increased across age groups, races/ethnicities and genders, with millennials showing more anxiety than Gen Xers or baby boomers. However, baby boomers’ anxiety increased the most with a seven-point jump between 2017 and 2018, according to the press release.

According to the results, 39% of respondents reported they are more anxious than they were last year. Though Americans showed more anxiety than last year in all five areas rated — health, safety, finances, relationships and politics — the greatest anxiety increase was related to paying bills. Women were more anxious than men and showed a greater rise between 2017 and 2018, and nonwhite respondents were more anxious than white respondents, per the polling results.

“This poll shows U.S. adults are increasingly anxious particularly about health, safety and finances. That increased stress and anxiety can significantly impact many aspects of people’s lives, including their mental health, and it can affect families,” immediate past APA President Anita Everett, MD, said in the press release. “It highlights the need to help reduce the effects of stress with regular exercise, relaxation, healthy eating and time with friends and family.”

Stigma and mental health

The poll also reported on attitudes and perceptions about mental health and treatment, and showed that 86% of polled Americans believed a person’s mental health impacts their physical health — a six-point jump from 2017.

In addition, 75% of respondents reported untreated mental illness significantly impacts the United States economy and approximately 50% reported less stigma surrounding mental illness than 10 years ago. However, more than one-third of the respondents said that if a candidate running for public office had been diagnosed with a mental illness — regardless of whether they were receiving treatment — they would not vote for them.

Gun violence

When asked about gun violence in America, 87% of respondents viewed gun violence as a public health threat, including 77% of Republicans and 96% of Democrats, according to the national poll.


Saul Levin, MD
Saul Levin

“This poll reflects Americans’ overall concern about gun safety and presents a strong call to action to address gun violence as a public health issue,” Saul Levin, MD, MPA, CEO and medical director of the APA, said in the release. “Key to taking effective action to prevent gun violence will be better understanding the issues through research, which happens to be supported by most Americans.”

In addition, 85% of Americans thought Congress should do more to address mass shootings (76% of Republicans and 96% of Democrats), and more than 75% supported the CDC conducting research on gun violence as a public health issue, according to the press release.

The poll demonstrated about 50% of Americans reported lack of access to mental health services and easy access to assault style weapons as equally responsible for gun violence in the U.S. Additionally, black respondents were more likely than white respondents to blame easy access to guns (28% vs. 17%) and white respondents were more likely than black respondents to blame lack of access to mental health services (23% vs. 11%) for gun violence in the U.S.

Polling also showed that 46% of adult Americans reported that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators in 2018, which is up from 40% in 2017 and 37% in 2016.

Opioid addiction

According to the poll, nearly a third of respondents reported knowing someone addicted to opioids and almost half felt it was easy to access opioids for illegal use. Furthermore, they strongly support improving access to treatment (62%) instead of enforcing stricter punishments (26%) to combat the opioid epidemic.

In 2018, 31% of polled Americans reported knowing someone who is or has been addicted to opioids or prescription painkillers compared with 27% in 2017, and 46% reported that the opioid crisis impacts people like them compared with 37% in 2017. Also, 5% reported having abused or been addicted to opioids or prescription painkillers, which was up from 1% in 2017, according to the press release.

The poll also showed more Americans said it would be easy for someone to get opioids for illicit use (46% in 2018 vs. 39% in 2017). In addition, 80% of Americans believed recovery from an opioid addiction is possible, which has increased from 73% in 2017.

“Our poll findings show that Americans are increasingly aware of the problem of opioid addiction and increasingly believe people can recover,” Levin said in the release. “The crisis has become personal to many and they want to see treatment available for those affected. We are ready to work with the administration and Congress to curb this national epidemic.” – by Savannah Demko


American Psychiatric Association. APA Public Opinion Poll. Presented at: American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting; May 5-9, 2018; New York City.

Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.