LONDON — It's becoming more and more common these days for adults to report feeling overwhelmingly stressed and anxious on a daily basis. Now, a disconcerting survey has revealed that the majority of young British children are also suffering with anxiety. On average, anxious feelings are developing around the age of seven and mental health experts warn the trend may be worse than ever.
The survey, commissioned by ChannelMum.com, asked 2,000 parents of children (ages 3-18) about their kids' mental health. More than six in 10 respondents say their children regularly exhibit feelings of worry, unease, or fear. Of that group, 47% can quickly become unreasonably angry or irritable, and 29% usually become "out of control" during an anxiety attack.
All of this anxiety is having physical repercussions as well, with one fifth of respondents reporting their children scratch at their own skin as a coping mechanism. Also, three in 10 parents say their kids routinely complain of stress-induced stomach aches. Other common physical symptoms listed by parents include using the toilet frequently, poor diet, and pulling out hair.
Disturbingly, 14% of respondents even say their child has spoken openly about considering suicide, and 13% admit to knowing that their child has watched content that promotes self-harm online.
"Children today are possibly the most stressed generation ever as there is so much pressure piled onto them. From feeling they need to succeed academically to social media to heightened awareness of their body image, there is round-the-clock comparison with others from a very young age," comments Psychologist Emma Kenny in a statement. "Anxiety can be difficult to identify, as many symptoms are common in childhood and not always serious. However parents are often the best judge of whether a symptom is serious as they are in tune with their child and know when their behavior changes."
The survey also found that an anxious child is likely to lead to anxious parents as well. In all, 53% of respondents say they themselves feel anxious all the time, and many also say they have trouble sleeping at night.
In most cases, it appears that parents are at least aware of what is stressing out their kids; only 6% say they don't know why their child feels so unwound. A significant portion (37%) say their child becomes anxious when they have to try new things, and 40% list attending school as their child's most prevalent trigger for symptoms. Fear of failure (31%) was another common cited reason, followed by "doing anything outside their normal routine" (30%), and attending sleepovers (16%). Finally, more than a fifth of respondents have a hunch that their child is dealing with anxiety related to bullying.