Halloween scare: what are the most common phobias?

Birds, insects and other animals topped the list of common phobias in an enormous survey of US adults, and researchers found demographic patterns

Though you’re unlikely to see these costumes if you go out trick or treating, these are the things that are most likely to frighten people. Birds, insects and other animals top the list of common phobias among 4.7% of all adults, followed by mountains, tall buildings, bridges and other heights (4.5%).

Data

This information comes from an enormous survey of 43,093 US adults, the findings of which were published in the journal Psychological Medicine in 2007. The lead author of the study, Frederick S Stinson, and his colleagues noticed some interesting demographic patterns in our fears, too: “being female, young, and low income increased risk” of developing any of the phobias, “while being Asian or Hispanic decreased risk”. The study also found that the average age that people developed their fears was just 9.7 years old.

Source: The epidemiology of DSM-IV specific phobia in the USA: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

Design

The data was originally published as this table in the study. It’s fascinating (not least the part where you find out that two out of every 100 people have five fears or more) but it’s hardly eye-grabbing. So I selected six of the most common phobias and threw them into a mountain scene that might be a bit more memorable.

Table
Table from Psychological Medicine. Photograph: Psychological Medicine

If there is a statistic you would like to see visualized, please write to me at mona.chalabi@theguardian.com

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