The Top 5 Personal Fears In America

The top five list of personal fears of Americans: public speaking is at number 5.

The top five list of personal fears of Americans: public speaking is at number 5.

The first comprehensive survey of what Americans are afraid of has revealed that top of the list of personal fears is ‘walking alone at night’, not ‘public speaking’.

The full top 5 list of personal fears is:

  1. Walking alone at night.
  2. Becoming the victim of identity theft.
  3. Safety on the internet.
  4. Being the victim of a mass/random shooting.
  5. Public speaking.

People in the Chapman University survey were asked separately about fear of crime, and the researchers were surprised by the results.

Dr Edward Day, who led this part of the study, said:

“What we found when we asked a series of questions pertaining to fears of various crimes is that a majority of Americans not only fear crimes such as, child abduction, gang violence, sexual assaults and others; but they also believe these crimes (and others) have increased over the past 20 years.

When we looked at statistical data from police and FBI records, it showed crime has actually decreased in America in the past 20 years.

Criminologists often get angry responses when we try to tell people the crime rate has gone down.”

Here is the percentage of people who thought different crimes were on the increase:



In fact, crime is decreasing in the United States:


Fear factors

Across the different types of fears, the researchers looked at what characteristics of individuals predicted fear.

Dr. Christopher Bader, one of the study’s authors, explained:

“Through a complex series of analyses, we were able to determine what types of people tend to fear certain things, and what personal characteristics tend to be associated with most types of fear.”

What emerged were two factors that most consistently predicted high levels of fear:

  • Low levels of education.
  • High levels of TV viewing.


Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

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