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Study: Liberals and news junkies on edge as midterms approach

Left-leaning politics, frequent news consumption tied to greater anxiety symptoms

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 31, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- With the midterm elections less than a week away, anxiety in America is running high. According to a new study from digital mental health provider Big Health, it is running higher among some groups than others.

The online survey of 1,089 US respondents 18 years or older on October 17 and 18, 2018 administered the GAD-7, a commonly used measure for assessing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The GAD-7 consists of seven questions designed to measure common symptoms of anxiety. Each question is scored between 0 and 3. The higher the total score, the stronger the indication that the individual may be suffering from GAD. Respondents also answered questions about demographics, political views, preferred news sources and recent news events.

The result was a snapshot of American anxiety in the weeks leading up to the midterms, revealing differences depending on politics and news-consumption habits.

Respondents showed signs of heightened anxiety overall, with nearly a fourth (24.5%) scoring more than 10 on the GAD-7, indicating moderate to severe levels of anxiety.

On the political scale, “strongly liberal” respondents reported the most anxiety (GAD-7 score of 7.52, +25.93% over average), “strongly conservative” respondents, the least (4.08, -31.76%), even when controlling for demographic variables such as age, gender, income, region and use of a mobile device.

Across all media, those who checked political news multiple times a day were the most anxious (7.45, +24.75%), and those who checked political news daily the least (5.24, -12.34%). This effect persists, even when controlling for demographics. However, the source of a person’s news, whether cable TV, broadcast TV, print newspapers or social media has no significant effect on their anxiety level.

Interestingly, respondents who checked in on politics weekly reported more anxiety (6.58, +10.19%) than daily news watchers.

Of the timely topics surveyed, only people who checked news about the Clinton emails multiple times a day (9.35, +56.75%), compared to other topics, such as the Kavanaugh hearings, Russia investigation or Hurricane Michael showed the greatest levels of anxiety once controlling for demographics.

Details of the survey can be found here: Big Health Midterms 2018 Anxiety Survey.

While the majority of the people in the study appear to be experiencing sub-clinical levels of anxiety, almost one in four appears to be at risk for a clinical anxiety disorder. This is unfortunately not too far from the norm. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults in the U.S.—43.8 million in all—will experience a mental illness in a given year, and most do not seek treatment, because of stigma, lack of awareness or access. That leaves millions suffering from treatable maladies like insomnia and anxiety.

“If you’re feeling anxious, you’re not alone,” said Jenna Carl, PhD, Medical Director of Big Health. “Millions of Americans suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The good news is this common disorder can be readily addressed through psychological therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy administered by a licensed clinician or a clinically proven digital program you can work through at home. If you or someone you care about seems to be experiencing a high degree of anxiety, it might not just be the midterms and could be a sign more help is needed. Contact your physician and check your employer’s health and wellbeing resources. Whatever you do, take that first step and get the help you need.”

About Big Health
Big Health’s purpose is to help millions back to good mental health, which it does by creating Digital Medicine: fully automated and highly personalized behavioral medicine programs for mental health.

Big Health’s first solution, Sleepio, is a digital sleep improvement program featuring Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques designed by Prof Colin Espie (University of Oxford). In addition to helping sufferers make the changes necessary to overcome insomnia, it also acts as a stigma-free way to help improve anxiety and depression at population scale.

Sleepio is backed by the world’s leading evidence base for any digital therapeutic, with 33 peer-reviewed papers including eight randomized controlled trials. Under controlled conditions, 76% of insomnia sufferers using Sleepio achieved healthy sleep, and in a clinical audit study 68% of NHS depression and anxiety patients using Sleepio moved to recovery.

With offices in London and San Francisco, Big Health’s products are now being used by large multinational employers and major health plans to help improve the sleep and mental health of over one million people across 60+ countries.

Media Contact
Firebrand Communications for Big Health
Maura Lafferty

Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - 08:00