Fact: Everybody is scared of something. Some of my own personal phobias include heights, fast speeds, Final Destination-style random accidents, and being subjected to tense anticipation. (I really, really hate roller coasters.) But beyond these individual quirks, there are overarching fears shared by us all — of aging; of an increasingly Skynet-like means of existence; of money and how to make and keep it. These universal fears are the subject of a new study, which asked Americans what they’re scared of most, and while most of the answers are familiar, there are some surprises.
Chapman University took a random sample of 1,541 adults across the United States and asked them about two “metrics” of fear: 1) What kind of fear (expressed as a “domain”) they most feared, and 2) What specific fear they’re most scared of on a scale from 1 (least scary) to 4 (super scary). Then, for I guess “funsies,” they showed the individual percentages for a bevy of other fears.
Fear domains included the following: Crime, Daily Life, Environment, Government, Judgment of others, Man-Made Disasters, Natural Disasters, Personal Anxieties, Personal Future, and Technology. Somewhat surprisingly, the top three were Man-Made Disasters, Technology, and Government — people are clearly worried about the actions of other people, whereas things outside of human control like the environment and natural disasters were apparently, well, out of our control.
Those anxieties about humankind’s direct impact are mirrored in the study’s result of Americans’ top 10 specific fears, which researchers helpfully put into this infographic:
While “Government” ranked third as a fear domain, government corruption is far and away the biggest fear on study responders’ minds. There are other fears rooted in financial devastations (economic collapse, credit card fraud), attacks on America (cyber-terrorism, terrorist attacks, bio-warfare), and personal privacy (corporate and government tracking of personal information, identity theft). None of these are particularly surprising, but uh, where are the irrational and/or very niche fears? Luckily, the Chapman researchers broke down the percentages of all the responses, from the somewhat relevant to the really out there.
Just outside of the top ten, war (35.8%) and civil unrest (32%) rank high, but alongside those fears are Obamacare (35.7%?!), gun control (36.5%; pointedly, not gun violence), and reptiles (33%?!). Meanwhile, dying is ranked twice (21.9% and 16.8%; albeit, under separate fear domains), and “technology I don’t understand” (19%) and “whites no longer majority” (18.2%) round out the “Mm, maybe not” responses.
And then — ah yes, here we go: Ghosts and “talking to stranger[s]” top out at 9.7%, zombies make an appearance at 8.5%, clowns at 6.8%, and race, gender, and dress round out the bottom three fears. (We’re not really sure what aspects of race, gender, and dress are weighing on peoples’ minds.) While this study is far from flawless, it offers an interesting insight into the American public’s psyche — and probably makes a case for why responders are kept anonymous.
Images courtesy of Chapman University and Dimension Films.