Pity the poor grim reaper, he doesn’t get the respect he used to. That’s right, death is no longer one of the our most common fears.
Well, at least not in a recent poll that looked to learn what the top fears of British Columbia residents are.
In a survey conducted between May 31 and June 3 of this year by Canadian polling firm Insights West, BC residents said they feared things like snakes, spiders and heights war more than they feared death.
But those fears didn’t even top the list. Coming in at number one and number two, respectively, were terrorism and nuclear war. More than 15 per cent of BC residents said they were “very afraid” of those things. 14 per cent of those surveyed said they were very afraid of snakes, while heights and spiders came in at 11 per cent.
Insights West says fears play different when broken down demographically.
Gender and age play a role in most common fears
“Gender and age play a role in the situations that British Columbians fear,” says Mario Canseco, who is VP, Public Affairs at Insights West. “Women are more likely than men to be afraid of becoming victims of a crime, while the fear of nuclear war is strongest among those aged 55 and over.”
A look further down the list found people are very afraid of public speaking (10 per cent), drowning (7 per cent), needles (4 per cent), germs, (3 per cent) and clowns (2 per cent). Canseco says the results actually surprised the pollsters.
“We thought getting a shot or needle was going to be big, it was only 17 per cent,” she says. “A fear of flying, which is something we read about many times, was only 16 per cent. A fear of blood was 11 per cent and clowns, which is usually mentioned as one of the things people fear as kids is only seven per cent. The numbers aren’t quite as high as we imagined.”
The survey, which queried 802 people, found that 27 per cent have changed their plans to avoid the thing they fear.
The BC numbers show that west coasts residents differ slightly when it comes to their fears from the rest of Canada. A survey conducted last year found that snakes are the top fear of both male and female Canadians, with 33 per cent of men and 46 per cent of women fearing them.
While some fears are groundless in their consequence (clowns, really?) scientists says there is a very good reason for the universal fear of snakes: it helped us survive as a species.
“The idea is that throughout evolutionary history, humans that learned quickly to fear snakes would have been at an advantage to survive and reproduce,” Vanessa LoBue, a post-doctoral fellow in psychology at the University of Virginia, told LiveScience recently. Humans who detected the presence of snakes very quickly would have been more likely to pass on their genes. “This feeling is really common. We don’t see snakes all the time. There’s really no reason for this overwhelming disgust or hatred of snakes.”