Friday, February 22, 2013

Top ten fears of U.S. women from a survey by Debora M. Coty

This month in her Deb’s Blog of Wit & Near-wisdom central Florida author and speaker Debora M. Coty wrote about the results from a web survey of 500 American women she did for her new book Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate: Wit and Wisdom for Sidestepping Life's Worries. She asked women to pick their top three from a list of 24 fears, or to add others. The top ten fears she found were:

1.  Loss of a loved one (spouse/child/parents)
2.  Debilitating illness/terminal disease
3.  Failure
4.  Old age/senility
5.  The unknown/the what-ifs
6.  Loneliness
7.  Dependency on others
8.  Rejection
9.  Specific critters (e.g. snakes, roaches, rats)
10. Being judged unfairly

A half-dozen other fears that didn't quite make the top 10 were:

- Trying new things
- Purposelessness
- Depression
- The dark
- Flying
- Public Speaking

She said the top fear, loss of a loved one, had over twice the percentage of the second fear, but she didn’t list all those percentages.

Her list is startlingly different from the 2001 Gallup poll titled Snakes top list of Americans’ Fears which found the following:

1.  Snakes (62%)
2.  Public speaking in front of an audience (44%)
3.  Being closed in a small space (42%)
4.  Heights (41%)
5.  Spiders and insects (38%)
6.  Mice (33%)
7.  Flying on an airplane (22%)
8.   Needles and getting shots (21%)
9. Thunder and lightning (16%)
10. Dogs (14%)

11. Crowds (12%)
12. The Dark (8%)
13. Going to the doctor (8%)

There are several other surveys with separate results for women and men. Some were done using longer prepared lists of fears to rank, like the Fear Survey Schedule II (FSS-II, 51 items) and the the Fear Survey Schedule III (FSS-III, 108 items) and their translations or adaptations. Results vary wildly depending on where and when women were surveyed, and which prepared list they used.   

Back in a 1965 magazine article Geer used the FSS-II with a sample of U.S. University students and found the following top ten:

1.  Death of a loved one
2.  Illness or injury to loved ones
3.  Failing a test
4.  Snakes
5.  Auto accidents
6.  Looking foolish
7.  Speaking before a group
8.  Untimely or early death
9.  Being with drunks
10. Making mistakes

Another article from 1991 using the FSS-II on Canadian women in metro Toronto 50 and over found:

1.  Death of a loved one
2.  Illness or injury to loved ones
3.  Roller coasters
4.  Auto accidents
5.  Snakes
6.  Being with drunks
7.  Suffocating
8.  Being in a fight
9.  Seeing a fight
10. Untimely or early death
    (Speaking before a group was 16th)

A 1992 article using the FSS-III on U.S. University students found:

1.  Failure
2.  Dead people
3.  Hurting others’ feelings
4.  Feeling rejected
5.  Bats
6.  Mice or rats
7.  Fire
8.  Speaking in Public
9.  Feeling disapproved of
10. Looking foolish

Another article from 1994 on Egyptian women university students using the FSS-III found:

1.  Being seen unclothed
2.  Nude men
3.  Dirt
4.  Failure
5.  One person bullying another
6.  Being punished by God
7.  Parting from friends
8.  Hurting others’ feelings
9.  Tough looking people
10. Looking foolish or Nude women

Finally, an article from 2000 on Greek women using the FSS-III found:

1.  Becoming mentally ill
2.  Possible surgery
3.  Looking foolish
4.  Failure
5.  Witness surgery
6.  Dead people
7.  Parting from friends
8.  Feeling rejected by others
9.  Losing control
10. Feeling disapproved of

The 1892 image of melancholia with fear came from the Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) collection.

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