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Society Watch 2022 - Anxious Britain: How worried are we in 2022?

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Published: July 2022

Research based on three surveys conducted with a nationally representative sample of adults in Great Britain.

This study aimed to track and compare levels of worry across Britain, and to explore the proportion of people with who were extremely worried about several ‘life areas’ at three time points: January 2018, January 2019 and January 2022. Research from this project reveals that a ‘worry gap’ has opened up between men and women since the start pandemic, with women being twice as likely as men to be extremely worried about most areas of life asked about in the survey.

Key findings

  • Overall levels of worry across Britain were relatively stable in January 2018, January 2019 and January 2022. Although there were no differences in the levels of general worry between men and women in January 2018 and January 2019, a gap had appeared in January 2022. In this most recently collected data, one in five women reported being extremely worried about most of the areas they were asked about, compared to only one in 10 men.
  • In January 2022, women were much more likely than men to be extremely worried about the health and wellbeing both of their children and of their parents. Although men and women reported similar levels of worry about their parents’ health and wellbeing in January 2018 and January 2019, a gap had opened up in January 2022 when half of women but only one third of men said that they were extremely worried about their parents. Similar differences were seen in people’s worries about their children’s health and wellbeing in January 2022, but a gap had already opened up in this area in January 2019.
  • When asked about both their parents’ and children’s health and wellbeing in January 2022, women were also more likely than men to be caught between worrying about both generations. Four out of 10 women reported being extremely worried about both their parents’ and their children’s health and wellbeing. Half as many men (two out of 10) reported being extremely worried about both.
  • The worry gap between men and women extended beyond areas related to the health and wellbeing of people’s families. In January 2022, women were also more likely than men to be extremely worried about their work-life balance and about their level of education, training and qualifications. These gaps were not seen in data collected in January 2018 or January 2019.

Methodology

This research is based on three surveys conducted via the NatCen Panel with a nationally representative sample of adults aged 18+ in Great Britain at three different time points, in January 2018 (2,199 adults), January 2019 (2,048 adults) and January 2022 (1,122 adults). Each survey contained an identical set of questions asking respondents how much they worried about 16 different areas of life. Respondents were only asked about the areas that were relevant to them.

Responses to these questions were collected using an 11-point scale, running from 0 (“not at all”) to 10 (“a lot”). For each question, respondents who indicated a level of worry of 8, 9 or 10 out of 10 were considered to be extremely worried about the specified area. A new variable was also created to identify respondents who reported being extremely worried about most of the areas they were asked about. Weighted estimates of the proportion of people who were extremely worried about each area and about most of the areas they were asked about were produced for each survey separately.

Download the report 'Society Watch 2022 - Anxious Britain'