Exploring Existential Anxiety among Indian Youth: Prevalence and Gender Differences

Keywords: Existential Anxiety (EA), Gender, Indian youth, Meaning Making, Negativity, Social Media, Social Pressures


Background: Existential anxiety (EA) refers to the feeling of uncertainty regarding life and its meaning. It is gaining increasing attention on social media in the form of existential humour. The present study aimed to explore the prevalence of EA among Indian youth and gender differences among those experiencing EA.

Method: The sample consisted of 30 males and 39 females (N = 69) falling in the age range of 17-29 years. The quantitative tool used was the Existential Concerns Questionnaire. For the qualitative aspect, three open-ended questions were given at the end of the scale.

Result: Upon analysing the quantitative data, it was found that there existed no significant differences (p = 0.24) between the EA levels of males (M = 52.53, SD = 16.73; moderate) and females (M = 56.97, SD = 14.20; moderate). Thematic network analysis of the qualitative data revealed common themes amongst the genders (uncertainty, negative emotions, competition/ success, meaning-making, social media, and life events). The only theme that was present among females was that of social pressures.

Conclusion: There is a medium-low EA prevalence rate among the participants. Furthermore, major gender differences don’t seem to exist in the experience of such anxiety, barring the theme of social pressures which affects the females.

How to cite this article:
Mandalaparthy M, Abraham B. Exploring Existential Anxiety among Indian Youth: Prevalence and Gender Differences. Ind J Youth Adol Health 2021;8(1):8-12.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24321/2349.2880.202102


Sartre JP. Existentialism and human emotions. Citadel Press; 1985.

Camus A. The Fall, trans. J. O’Brien. New York: Knopf; 1956.

Tillich P. Anxiety, religion, and medicine. Pastoral Psychology. 1952;3(9):11-7. [Google Scholar].

Popovic N. Existential anxiety and existential joy. Practical Philosophy. 2002;5(2):32-40. [Google Scholar].

Shumaker D, Killian K, Cole C, Hruby A, Grimm J. Existential anxiety, personality type, and therapy

preference in young adults. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 2020;60(6):849-64. [Google Scholar].

Berman SL, Weems CF, Stickle TR. Existential anxiety in adolescents: Prevalence, structure, association with

psychological symptoms and identity development. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 2006;35(3):285-92.

[Google Scholar].

Lemish D, Elias N. “We Decided We Don’t Want Children. We Will Let Them Know Tonight”: Parental Humor

on Social Media in a Time of Coronavirus Pandemic. International Journal of Communication. 2020;14:5261-

[Google Scholar].

Morgan J, Smith R, Singh A. Exploring the role of humor in the management of existential anxiety. Humor.


Fox AP, Leung N. Existential well‐being in younger and older people with anorexia nervosa—A preliminary

investigation. European Eating Disorders Review: The Professional Journal of the Eating Disorders Association.

;17(1):24-30. [Google Scholar].

Weems CF, Russell JD, Neill EL, Berman SL, Scott BG. Existential anxiety among adolescents exposed to

disaster: Linkages among level of exposure, PTSD, and depression symptoms. Journal of Traumatic Stress.

;29(5):466-73. [PubMed] [Google Scholar].

Nath A, Ranjan M. Facebook Mirrors Existential Anxiety?. Cikitusi Journal For Multidisciplinary Research.

;6(3):80-90. [Google Scholar].

Smith E, Kemmis RB, Comyn P. How can the expansion of the apprenticeship system in India create conditions for greater equity and social justice? Australian Journal of Adult Learning. 2014;54(3):368-88. [Google Scholar].

Chadda RK, Deb KS. Indian family systems, collectivistic society and psychotherapy. Indian J Psychiatry.2013;55(2):S299. [PubMed] [Google Scholar].

Razvi M, Roth GL. Socio-Economic Development and Gender Inequality in India. Academy of Human Resource

Development International Conference (AHRD), Austin, TX; 2004 Mar 3-7.

Alavi S. A historical analysis of women development in India. International Journal of Scientific Engineering and Research. 2013;1:111-6.

Kowalczyk K. Facebook and Instagram user demographics in India - August 2017 [Internet]. NapoleonCat. [cited 2019 Apr 13]. Available from: https://napoleoncat.com/blog/facebook-and-instagram-user-demographics-inindia-august-2017/?cookies=agree

Statista [Internet]. Number of Facebook users in India by age and gender. 2021 - [cited 2018 April 10]. Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/717615/indianumber-of-facebook-users-by-age-and-gender/

van Bruggen V, Vos J, Westerhof G, Bohlmeijer E, Glas G. Systematic review of existential anxiety instruments.

Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 2015 Apr;55(2):173-201. [Google Scholar].

Attride-Stirling J. Thematic networks: an analytic tool for qualitative research. Qualitative Research.

;1(3):385-405. [Google Scholar].

Gupta N. Exploring Meaning and Sources of Meaning in life among Adolescents and Emerging Adults [doctoral dissertation]. TISS. 2015.

Steger MF, Oishi S, Kashdan TB. Meaning in life across the life span: Levels and correlates of meaning in life from emerging adulthood to older adulthood. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 2009 Jan 1;4(1):43-52. [Google


Arnett JJ. Emerging adulthood: What is it, and what is it good for?. Child Development Perspectives.

;1(2):68-73. [Google Scholar].

Parks SD. Big questions, worthy dreams: Mentoring young adults in their search for meaning, purpose, and

faith. Jossey-Bass; 2000.

Parthasarthy A. Vedanta Treatise. Mumbai, India: Vedanta Life Institute Publication; 2001.

Dhir A, Yossatorn Y, Kaur P, Chen S. Online social media fatigue and psychological wellbeing—A study

of compulsive use, fear of missing out, fatigue, anxiety and depression. International Journal of Information

Management. 2018;40:141-52. [Google Scholar].

Stefanone MA, Lackaff D, Rosen D. Contingencies of selfworth and social-networking-site behavior. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2011;14(1-2):41-9. [PubMed] [Google Scholar].

Liu D, Baumeister RF. Social networking online and personality of self-worth: A meta-analysis. Journal of

Research in Personality. 2016;64:79-89. [Google Scholar].

Shettar M, Karkal R, Kakunje A, Mendonsa RD, Chandran VM. Facebook addiction and loneliness in the postgraduate students of a university in southern India. Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2017;63(4):325-9. [PubMed] [Google


Savci M, Aysan F. Relationship between impulsivity, social media usage and loneliness. Educational Process:

International Journal. 2016;5(2):106. [Google Scholar].

Zhou SX, Leung L. Gratification, loneliness, leisure boredom, and self-esteem as predictors of SNS-game

addiction and usage pattern among Chinese college students. In Internet and Technology Addiction:

Breakthroughs in Research and Practice. IGI Global; 2019. p. 613-629.

Dent G. Facebook is full of sad, lonely people pretending they’re OK [Internet]. The Independent. 2021 - [cited 20 June 2019]. Available from: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/facebook-instagram-twitter-social-mediamakes-sad-lonely-attention-seekers-a7614396.html

Kumari V. Problems and challenges faced by urban working women in India [Doctoral dissertation].

Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Institute of Technology Rourkela; 2014.

Sahni A. Stresses and Distresses in the Youth. Health Administrator. 2003;17(1):75-77.

Desai S, Andrist L. Gender scripts and age at marriage in India. Demography. 2010;47(3):667-87. [PubMed]

[Google Scholar].

Shah AM. The family in India: Critical essays. Orient Blackswan; 1998.

Char A, Saavala M, Kulmala T. Influence of mothersin-law on young couples’ family planning decisions in

rural India. Reprod Health Matters. 2010;18(35):154-62.[PubMed] [Google Scholar].

Gupta JA. Exploring Indian women’s reproductive decision-making regarding prenatal testing. Culture,

Health & Sexuality. 2010;12(2):191-204. [Google Scholar].

Gupta JA. New reproductive technologies, women’s health and autonomy: Freedom or dependency. New

Delhi: Sage Publications; 2000.

Puri S, Adams V, Ivey S, Nachtigall RD. “There is such a thing as too many daughters, but not too many

sons”: A qualitative study of son preference and fetal sex selection among Indian immigrants in the United

States. Social Science & Medicine. 2011;72(7):1169-76.[Google Scholar].

Singh K. Laws and Son Preference in India-A Reality Check. eSocialSciences Working Papers. 2014 (id: 5943).

Mitra A. Son preference in India: Implications for gender development. Journal of Economic Issues.

;48(4):1021-37. [Google Scholar].

Volart BE. Gender Discrimination and Growth: Theory and Evidence from India. London School of Economics

and Political Science, London University, London; 2004.