Sunday, February 8, 2009

Public speaking and other phobias in Iceland

Are US residents unique in having public speaking come at or near the top of a list of feared situations? What about other countries? Just recently I found a magazine article which reported a survey of phobic symptoms in Iceland. The survey of Icelanders had 775 respondents. The article was titled “Six Month Prevalence of Phobic Symptoms in Iceland: An Epidemiological Postal Survey.” It was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, Vol. 54, p257, 1998.

Iceland has a population of only about 320,000, which is less than that of about 522,000 for Wyoming, the US state with the least population. Looking at it another way, Iceland has about 950 times less population than the US (about 305 million).

The most frequently reported phobic situations for Icelanders were:
31% - public speaking
28% - heights, small animals
24% - talking to strangers
21% - going to the dentist
16% - writing in the presence of others
14% - flying, enclosed spaces, being alone
12% - crossing bridges, traveling through tunnels, elevators, crowds, going out alone, buses, injections, the sight of blood
8% - being in dark places

Public speaking was at the top, and was reported by 31%, or nearly a third of Icelanders. Fear of heights and of small animals came in second, at 28%. I can understand fear of heights being prevalent, since it is pretty universal. Fear of small animals is mystifying to me, since Iceland reportedly is free of rabies. All I can imagine is a potential problem with illegally imported pets.

The 31% figure for public speaking phobia is extremely close to the 30.2% reported in 1998 for the U.S. in the first column of Table 1 of the National Comorbidity Survey paper by Kessler et al which I discussed in a previous post on November 2, 2008.

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