What are the top 10 things people worry about?
Worry and anxiety are very common feelings that most people experience from time to time. According to recent surveys and research, there are some worries that are more prevalent than others. While the specific things people worry about can vary based on age, location, culture and individual circumstances, there are some general themes that tend to be very common concerns.
- The top 10 common worries
- Why we worry about these things
- Tips for managing common worries
- When to seek professional help for anxiety and worry
- When to see a doctor quickly
- Conclusion and takeaways
Frequently Asked Questions
- What's the difference between worry, stress and anxiety?
- Is worrying ever useful?
- Can worrying be harmful?
- What causes excessive worrying?
- When does worrying indicate an anxiety disorder?
- What techniques help manage worrying?
- What treatments help chronic worriers?
- How can you support a friend or loved one who worries excessively?
- When should you seek emergency help for anxiety?
- What’s the best way to stop anxious thoughts?
In this detailed article, we will explore the top 10 things that studies have shown many people frequently worry about, look at why these particular issues spark worry, and provide some tips and resources for managing common worries and anxieties.
The top 10 common worries
Here are 10 of the most prevalent worries experienced by adults:
1. Money and finances
Concerns about money and financial security routinely top the list of things people worry about. In particular, not having enough money to pay bills, debt, the rising cost of living, and saving enough for retirement are some of the biggest money-related worries.
Financial worries often increase during economic downturns and periods of uncertainty. However, money can cause stress even when things are relatively stable, especially for people struggling with debt or living paycheck to paycheck.
2. Health and safety of loved ones
For many people, the health and well-being of close family and friends is a major source of worry. In particular, worrying about children is very common for parents. However, worrying about the safety and health of partners, siblings, parents and other loved ones is also prevalent.
Sometimes specific health problems or risks spark these worries. Other times, it is more general concern about losing someone close. Events like illnesses, injuries or accidents can increase these worries.
3. Job and career worries
Work is closely tied to financial security, which is why job and career worries are very common. Losing a job, being unable to find work, disliking a job, job instability and uncertainty about future career prospects all make the top 10 list of frequent worries.
Under-employment and difficulties changing careers or progressing also contribute to these worries for many people. Job worries tend to increase during recessions and when companies are reporting layoffs.
4. Relationship problems
For those in relationships, worries about relationships are very prevalent. Common relationship worries include conflict with a partner, losing connection and intimacy, infidelity or trust issues, different goals and values, and worrying a partner doesn't care.
Other relationship worries like worrying about a partner's health, mood changes, lack of support and poor communication are also common. Relationship stress tends to be highest amongst couples with children.
5. Anxiety and depression
Many people worry about experiencing feelings of anxiety, panic, tension and depression. Global surveys conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic indicated a large increase in the number of people reporting concerns about their mental health and feelings of isolation.
Ongoing stress, traumatic events, grief, unemployment, money problems, loneliness and many other factors can trigger or worsen anxiety and depression. Sufferers often worry about managing feelings, impacts on work and relationships, and finding proper help.
6. Appearance and weight worries
Appearance is consistently one of the top worries reported, especially amongst younger adults. Worries about weight, body shape, looking ugly or old, hair loss and skin issues are common for many individuals.
Social media usage and unrealistic messaging in advertising tend to amplify appearance pressures. Discrimination and judgement about appearances can further fuel these worries.
7. world events and politics
Many people report worrying about global issues like war, terrorism, political instability, climate change, poverty, hunger and human rights abuses. Local issues like crime rates and civil unrest also spark high levels of worry.
Ongoing news coverage of disasters, conflict, divisive politics and economic crises fuel these types of worries for large segments of the population. Worrying about future generations is also common.
8. Covid-19 and pandemic worries
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced many new worries over the past few years. Fear of catching the virus, worries about personal health and that of loved ones, pandemic fatigue, loss of social connections, employment instability and vaccine anxieties have all been very common.
New virus variants, struggles to control outbreaks, misinformation and politicization of public health measures have prolonged pandemic stress and uncertainty for many people.
9. Sleep problems
Difficulties with sleep are a source of worry for both those suffering from diagnosed sleep disorders like insomnia as well as people experiencing occasional problems sleeping.
Common sleep worries include getting insufficient sleep, trouble falling or staying asleep, feeling tired during the day, fear of developing a sleep disorder and worries about impacts of poor sleep on mental and physical health.
10. Death and dying
While not a day-to-day worry for most, thoughts and fears about death and dying make the top 10 list for a considerable minority of adults at some point. Terminal illness of oneself or others, general fear of death or dying young, and worries about the dying process are common issues.
Events like a serious diagnosis or tragic accident, anniversary of a loss or birthday milestones as we age can all re-awaken these worries.
Why we worry about these things
The specific things we worry about tend to involve threats or risks to things we care deeply about - our health and safety, loved ones, financial security, values and life goals. Worrying thoughts arise as our mind's way of trying to problem-solve and avoid potential harm or loss.
Of course, worrying excessively is mentally draining and often unproductive. But psychologists tell us some worry is normal and even adaptive. A moderate amount of worrying about real risks or problems can motivate us to take sensible precautions and plan constructive solutions.
We tend to worry about more immediate issues affecting us like money, family or work. But many worries also stem from uncertainty about the future. Retirement, career changes, aging, our children's future and world events can all represent vague future threats that trigger worry.
Major life changes and unpredictable crises like an illness or natural disaster also magnify worry. Any event perceived to threaten our safety, security, health, family bonds or goals can provoke worrying thoughts.
Personality traits like neuroticism and pessimism, mental health issues like generalized anxiety, and physical health problems can also predispose people to increased worrying. Worriers tend to experience more stress and anxiety in response to uncertain situations and potential "what if" scenarios compared to non-worriers.
Tips for managing common worries
Since everyone experiences worry and anxiety at times, having some healthy strategies for preventing worries from becoming excessive or debilitating is important:
- Keep perspective - Try to view your worries in the bigger picture of your overall life rather than exaggerating their significance.
- Get facts - Do research or talk to experts to get factual information that can counter unrealistic or exaggerated worries.
- Make a plan - Come up with practical steps you can take to prepare for and manage problems that are within your control.
- Let go of what you can't control - Accept and adapt to things like market fluctuations, politics or aging that you can't totally control.
- Manage time and routine - Don't obsess or dwell on worries. Set aside specific "worry time" and get absorbed in productive activities.
- Talk it out - Verbalizing worries to a supportive loved one or professional can help defuse the hold they have over your thoughts.
- Keep healthy - Take care of your physical and mental health with good self-care habits. Things like adequate sleep, exercise and healthy social connections help build resilience.
- Consider counseling - If worries become excessive and significantly impact work, relationships or quality of life, consulting a psychologist or counselor can help.
When to seek professional help for anxiety and worry
Occasional worries are normal, but excessive, uncontrollable worrying and related anxiety that interferes with daily life may indicate an anxiety disorder. Consulting a doctor or mental health professional is recommended if worry and anxiety:
- Cause significant emotional distress
- Interfere with work, school or relationships
- Have a negative impact on mood, sleep, appetite or energy levels
- Include panic attacks, compulsive behaviors or intrusive thoughts
- Involve substance abuse as a coping mechanism
- Are not improved with self-help strategies
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, anxiety medication or mindfulness practices are common treatments doctors may recommend.
Joining a support group can also help people realize they are not alone in dealing with issues like financial stress, work pressures, relationship problems, health conditions or other common worries.
When to see a doctor quickly
In some circumstances, people with severe anxiety or panic may feel like they are having a mental health emergency. Warning signs requiring urgent medical care include:
- Thoughts of harming or killing oneself
- Seeing, hearing or believing things that aren't real (hallucinations or delusions)
- Uncontrollable, racing thoughts and inability to concentrate
- A severe panic attack lasting more than 10 minutes
- Unexplained chest pain, heart palpitations or shortness of breath
Emergency room doctors can provide rapid anxiety relief and assess whether hospitalization is needed for mental health observation and treatment.
Conclusion and takeaways
- Worrying to some degree about issues like finances, family, work, health and the future is common
- The most prevalent worries tend to involve threats to safety, security, health, loved ones and life goals
- Some worry can be motivating but excessive worrying is unproductive and emotionally draining
- Keeping worries manageable requires perspective, planning, openness, healthy living and seeking support when needed
- Anxiety disorders and related mental health issues may require counseling, therapy and other professional treatment
Knowing we face shared worries can provide some comfort and motivation to help each other manage challenges and build a society with greater opportunity, connection and care.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common questions related to worrying and anxiety:
What's the difference between worry, stress and anxiety?
- Worry involves repetitive thoughts focused on potential threats or worst case outcomes. Excessive, uncontrollable worry is characteristic of anxiety disorders.
- Stress is a reaction to a demanding situation that causes physical, emotional and psychological strain. Acute stress is temporary while chronic stress persists over time.
- Anxiety is apprehension or unease about future dangers or threats. Anxiety becomes a disorder when it is out of proportion to a situation and causes significant impairment and distress.
Is worrying ever useful?
Yes, a certain level of worry about real problems, risks and life challenges is normal and can help motivate planning and problem-solving. Mild to moderate worry that comes and goes is not necessarily unhealthy. But excessive, persistent worrying is usually unproductive and damaging long-term.
Can worrying be harmful?
Yes, chronic worrying and anxiety can significantly impair day-to-day functioning, sleep quality, work performance and relationships. Long-term anxiety is linked to depression, immune system impairment and conditions like heart disease, IBS and migraines.
What causes excessive worrying?
Biology, childhood experiences, trauma, stress, cognitive distortions, personality traits and mental health disorders can all make people more prone to worrying. But often the root cause of chronic worrying is simply habitual rumination.
When does worrying indicate an anxiety disorder?
If worrying and anxiety are persistent, uncontrollable, debilitating and accompany other emotional and physical symptoms, it likely signifies an anxiety disorder requiring medical attention. Common disorders involving excessive worry are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and OCD.
What techniques help manage worrying?
Self-help strategies like mindfulness practices, exercise, socializing, productive planning, cognitive restructuring, living according to values and seeking professional therapy can all help counter unproductive worrying.
What treatments help chronic worriers?
Cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, anxiety medications, hypnotherapy, supplements, acupuncture, meditation, Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping), lifestyle changes and joining a support group can all assist chronic worriers.
How can you support a friend or loved one who worries excessively?
Listening without judgement, encouraging them to open up, helping them reality check distorted thoughts, offering perspective, praising small progress, supporting healthy lifestyle habits, reminding them of strengths and reinforcing therapy are some helpful ways to support a loved one struggling with anxiety or worry. But take care not to enable avoidance behaviors or excessive reassurance-seeking.
When should you seek emergency help for anxiety?
Go to an emergency room or call a crisis hotline if anxiety or worry becomes severe and includes thoughts of self-harm, hallucinations, extreme panic, rapid heart rate, chest pain or difficulty breathing. These may indicate urgent mental and physical health risks requiring immediate intervention.
What’s the best way to stop anxious thoughts?
Learning to counter worried thoughts with more realistic, positive statements can help. But often the most effective approach is to practice just letting thoughts pass through your mind without reacting or trying to control them. This begins retraining your brain not to get stuck in worried rumination patterns. Regular mindfulness meditation helps build this tolerance of uncertainty and worry.
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