Nation’s phobias revealed
Thursday 27 October 2005
Research commissioned by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) shows that Britain’s twenty-somethings have the greatest fear of creepy animals, despite being seen as the nation’s dare-devils.
ZSL’s phobia survey reveals that young people* are more scared of classic fear inducing species such as spiders, snakes and rats than their older counterparts.
When asked what animals they were scared of, our extreme-sports loving go-getters admitted to being petrified of spiders, followed by snakes, rats, cockroaches and even daddy long legs! Almost 80% 25-34 year olds asked had a phobia of spiders compared with just 44% for over 65’s.
London Zoo (run by ZSL) is hoping to tackle this trend and make the most of Halloween by running ‘Fiendish Phobias’, a series of encounters with the nations scariest animals including spiders, rats and cockroaches. The sessions, run for adults and children, aim to dispel the myths surrounding these animals in the hope that people will learn to associate positive feelings with them instead of phobias.
John Clifford, arachnophobia therapist for London Zoo’s ‘Friendly Spider Programme’ said 'People tend to fear things they are not used to or don’t understand, nowadays young people tend to have less contact with nature compared with older generations so they are less likely to encounter certain animals day-to-day. People acquire or develop phobias at an early age and the fear tends to be cumulative, getting worse as you get older; so if children are exposed to animals early on they are less likely to develop a phobia.'
The survey of 1000 people aged 16 plus revealed that the likelihood of having a spider, snake, rat or cockroach phobia increases between the ages of 16 and 34. A fear of snakes (known as
ophidiophobia) showed the highest increase with age from 25% to 51%, and arachnophobia showed the second biggest increase from 63% for 16-24 year olds up to 77% for the 25-34 age group.
The research indicated that after this initial increase in animal fear, the percentage of people with phobias declines with age, with the 65 plus age group having the lowest incidence of phobias of spiders (46%) and cockroaches (23%).
Mr Clifford said, 'The UK has one of the highest levels of arachnophobia in the world, despite other countries such as Australia and South America being home to many deadly spider species. The UK is also more ‘phobic’ than mainland Europe, it’s impossible to say why.'
The survey also revealed some other interesting results including the fact that women are twice as likely to have a phobia, along with some interesting social and regional patterns, see notes for full details.
* aged between 25-34
— ENDS —
Notes to editors
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL runs London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in worldwide field conservation efforts.
Animal encounters and other Halloween themed activities will be taking place at London Zoo until the Sunday 30th October
ZSL runs a friendly spider programme from spring to autumn every year, which boasts an 85% success rate. For more information visit www.zsl.org
The ZSL survey was run by BMRB on the 7th – 9th October 2005.
Females are more prone to phobias by almost 50%: 236 compared with 127 men from the 1000 sample had an animal phobia of some kind.
Females are more scared than men for all the phobia categories.
Of the five age-groups (16 24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65+)
- 25-34 had the highest % phobias of spiders with 77%, 65+ had the lowest with 46%
- 25-34 had the highest % phobias of snakes with 51%, 16-24 had the lowest with 25%
- 55-64 had the highest % phobias of rats with 46%, 35-44 had the lowest with 23%
- 25-34 had the highest % phobias of cockroaches with 43%, 65+ had the lowest with 23%
Comparing age extremes (16-24 / 55+):
- % Phobias increase with age for snakes (16-24 25%, 65plus - 50%) and rats (16-24 - 33%, 65plus - 46%)
- % Phobias decrease with age for spiders (63% for 25-34, 65plus 46%) and cockroaches (16-24 - 32%, 65plus 23%)
Of those asked with a phobia;
All phobia %’s increase between the ages of 16–34
All phobia % are very similar across social class, they all increase as social grade declines.
% Scared of…
Region with highest %
Region with lowest %
West Midlands / Scotland
West Midlands (London 2nd)
London / West Midlands
North / South East
North / South West
East Midlands / North West
Yorkshire and the North West are more scared of spiders than Londoners
The Welsh and West Midlands are more scared of rats than Londoners
The North West is more scared of the following, compared with the South East:
Clare Kingston - 020 7449 6361