When Does Anxiety Peak? (Does Anxiety Get Worse with Age?)

When Does Anxiety Peak? (Does Anxiety Get Worse with Age?)

Anxiety and panic attacks can start at any age, and are scary no matter when we first experience them. Many people wonder whether their anxiety will worsen or improve over time. At what age does anxiety peak, and does it get worse with age?

Anxiety disorders commonly develop around early adolescence or young adulthood, with the average age of onset being 21 years old. Peak prevalence occurs between 30 to 44 years old, where 23% of people report anxiety disorders within the past year. Anxiety rates are consistent through most of adulthood, but drop off in late adulthood (60+).

It’s important to keep in mind that these numbers are just averages. There are plenty of resources available to help you beat anxiety regardless of your age.

For now, let’s take a closer look at the relationship between age and anxiety.

What is the Average Age of Onset for Anxiety Disorders?

In general, the average age of onset for anxiety disorders is 21.3 years old; although this varies by disorder. Anxiety disorders such as separation anxiety, specific phobias, and social anxiety disorder often begin during childhood or in the early teens. Agoraphobia, OCD, PTSD, Panic Disorder, and GAD more frequently emerge during adulthood. (De Lijster, et al., 2016)

Average Age of Onset for Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorder

Average age of onset

Separation Anxiety

10.6 Years

Specific Phobia

11 Years

Social Anxiety Disorder


14.3 Years


(without Panic Disorder)

21.1 Years

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

24 Years

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

26.6 Years

Panic Disorder

30.3 Years

Generalized Anxiety Disorder


34.9 Years

Anxiety Disorders in General

21.3 Years

The above graph and table reflect the average age of onset for various anxiety disorders. While these are the averages, any anxiety disorder can potentially emerge earlier or later in one’s life.

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When Does Anxiety Peak? (Which Age Group Has the Most Anxiety?)

On an individual level, anxiety can peak or subside at any time. Individual effort toward therapy and anxiety management can play a huge role in this. However, anxiety tends to peak through adulthood and often subsides by late adulthood (60+).

The age group with the most anxiety are adults aged 30 to 44, with 23% reporting anxiety in the last year. At any given time, approximately 19.1% of the population suffers from an anxiety disorder. (Kessler, et al., 2005)

At what age does anxiety peak

Percentage of Children with Anxiety by Age Group

Anxiety disorders tend to be significantly less common in children than in teenagers and young adults. (Ghandour, et al., 2018)

This is likely due to a combination of psychological factors and difficulty communicating to identify anxiety disorders in children. The most common anxiety disorders found in children tend to involve separation anxiety, specific phobias, or social anxiety.

Children aged 3-5



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Diagnosed with Anxiety

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Percentage of Adults with Anxiety by Age Group

Compared to childhood, the prevalence of anxiety disorders in adulthood remains much more consistent. Of the four adult age groups studied, the 30–44-year-old age group most commonly reported suffering from an anxiety disorder within the past year. It isn’t until late adulthood, in the 60-year-old+ age group, where reported anxiety seems to really drop off. (Kessler, et al., 2005)

18-29 years

30-44 years

45-59 years

60+ years

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Does Anxiety Get Worse with Age?

According to the anxiety statistics available, anxiety is worse in adulthood than in childhood. However, anxiety is usually not as bad in late adulthood (as a senior citizen) as it is from age 18-59.

There are likely a number of factors at play here beyond obvious biological changes.

Global anxiety levels tend to increase around the early adult years and continue throughout most of adulthood. This is when social pressures, financial stress, and relationship struggles are most likely to be relevant to us. Later in life, we’re a bit more settled and such events seem less important. This likely plays a large part in the decrease of anxiety as we age into our twilight years.

Another major factor is our ability to learn effective coping mechanisms for anxiety and stress over time. By late adulthood, we are far more likely to understand our anxiety; we can manage it more effectively and without fear.

One notable exception to the late adulthood decrease in anxiety is the fear of falling that some elderly people will develop. As we become older and more physically vulnerable, falls can cause serious harm. Sometimes, after a fall, an elderly person will develop a fear of falling. This can become a phobia over time and increase stress and anxiety for those individuals.

Elderly people tend to experience more of the physical symptoms of anxiety:

Can Anxiety Relapse Later in Life?

Unfortunately, it is possible to reduce your anxiety disorder down to a state of near nonexistence, only for it to rear its ugly head again years down the road. In fact, this exact scenario has played out in my own life before with panic disorder.

After several years without panic attacks, I was under a lot of stress in my personal life. During a particularly difficult week, I experienced a panic attack for the first time in years. I was shocked! I had almost forgotten what they felt like and how terrible they were.

While this can be distressing news to hear, there is an upside. Beating your anxiety the second time (or the third, or the fourth…) is so much easier than the first time! During an anxiety relapse, you at least know what you are dealing with. You understand how anxiety works and what triggers it for you in the first place; as well as how to get it under control quickly.

If the potential of an anxiety relapse (or first-time anxiety) has you stressed out, be sure to check out our free resources for beating anxiety.

Reference List

  1. De Lijster JM, Dierckx B, Utens EMWJ, Verhulst FC, Zieldorff C, Dieleman GC, et al. The age of onset of anxiety disorders: a meta-analysis. Can J Psychiatr. 2017;62:237–46
  2. Ghandour RM, Sherman LJ, Vladutiu CJ, Ali MM, Lynch SE, Bitsko RH, Blumberg SJ. Prevalence and treatment of depression, anxiety, and conduct problems in U.S. children. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2018. Published online before print October 12, 2018
  3. Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Merikangas KR, Walters EE. Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2005;62(6):593–602.
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About the Author

Years of personal experience with anxiety disorders and panic attacks have led me to devise some pretty creative ways to keep my anxiety in check. In the past, anxiety and panic attacks felt like something I'd have to live with forever. Nowadays, panic attacks are a distant memory for me, and I'm free to pursue passions like writing and traveling the world. Hopefully, the information on this website can help you achieve the same. I do all the writing here myself, so don't hesitate to reach out with questions!

Tyler Ellis

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