20 Top Things People Are Afraid of in the US

Fear is a universal part of the human experience. In the U.S., there is a mixture of uniquely American fears sprinkled in with those that afflict people around the globe. These are the 20 top fears Americans have today.


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The fear of spiders is pervasive. Baptist Health thinks the explanation for “this and similar animal phobias is that these creatures once posed a threat to our ancestors who lacked the knowledge and tools to deal with injuries from animals and insects.” Educating oneself on different spiders and which are harmful could help ease fears surrounding them.

Corrupt government officials

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In 2023, 60.1% of respondents to a study by the Chapman University Survey of American Fears (CSAF) reported being ‘afraid‘ or ‘very afraid’ of corrupt government officials, highlighting a persistent concern over the integrity and actions of those in power. With more awareness of what is happening every day in the world, the sense of fear can be heightened.


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The fear of snakes and similar animals might arise out of an inherent fear of disease and contamination, or the fact that it’s not always obvious which ones are poisonous. This could explain why people have a fear of snakes and spiders but not other deadly animals like bears and tigers.

Economic/financial collapse

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It isn’t surprising that financial fears would make the list; 54.7% of Americans fear a significant downturn in the economy. Concerns over financial stability and security are on a lot of people’s minds with rising inflation and an economic downturn. Finances affect being able to put a roof over our heads and food on the table; losing those things is certainly going to cause some loss of sleep.


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Acrophobia, or the fear of heights, impacts more than 6% of people. This fear can lead to anxiety attacks and the avoidance of high places. People who suffer from this phobia may go to great lengths to avoid high places such as bridges, towers, or tall buildings. Surprisingly, not all people with a fear of heights also suffer from a fear of flying.

Russia using nuclear weapons

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A fear likely fueled by geopolitical tensions and conflicts, 52.5% of respondents are worried about the potential use of nuclear weapons by Russia. This fear has been an on-again, off-again member of this list since the Cold War, with it coming off in moments of quiet between Russia and the U.S. The fear has popped back up with the recent Ukraine invasion.


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Flying isn’t something that comes naturally to our species. Given that this man-made mode of transportation is still relatively new to us, it is natural that fears exist. With more than 100,000 commercial flights around the world each day, the chances of being struck by lightning are higher than dying in a plane crash.

The US becoming involved in another world war

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War in general is a terrifying concept. With a generation that was born in the Baby Boom coming off two world wars and then fighting in Vietnam, Korea, and the Middle East, a fear of another global war just makes sense. In the CSAF survey, 52.3% expressed fear over the possibility of the United States entering another global conflict.


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Verywell Mind writes, “A phobia of dogs can be devastating, limiting contact with dog-owning friends and relatives, and curtailing normal activities.” The dog lovers of the world will never understand or accept that people are afraid of their favorite furry companion, but it is quite common, often stemming from some sort of trauma involving a dog as a child.

People you love becoming seriously ill

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Our loved ones mean the world to us. Approximately 50.6% of Americans are afraid of their loved ones falling seriously ill, a concern that underscores the importance of health and well-being for individuals and their families. Piling on to this fear are the financial burdens of medical bills, some of which send families into bankruptcy.


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Trypanophobia is the extreme fear of needles. Specifically, people with this phobia feel afraid of getting injections or blood draws. This fear affects about 1 in 10 people, so don’t feel alone if you’ve been avoiding your flu shot. It’s also not uncommon for people with trypanophobia to not be afraid of getting tattooed because the needle looks more like a pen and the “injections” aren’t as deep.

People you love dying

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No one wants to lose the people they love, but for some, this fear can become all-consuming. About 50.4% fear the death of loved ones, reflecting a universal concern for the loss of those close to us. Grief is painful and does not have a manual for how to get through it, making death a frightening concept for those who will be left behind.


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Astraphobia is the extreme fear of thunder and lightning. “It’s most common in children. Many people outgrow the fear of thunderstorms as they get older,” says the Cleveland Clinic. Severe thunderstorms can be especially frightening for adults experiencing them for the first time or for people who have survived damaging storms like tornadoes.

Pollution of drinking water

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According to the CSAF survey, 50% of those surveyed were afraid of water pollution. This might be attributed to prominent news coverage of lead contamination in the drinking water of Flint, Michigan, as well as the subsequent discovery of contaminated drinking water in other communities around the country. Some people with OCD also suffer from this phobia because their minds can quickly wander to worst-case scenarios.


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Claustrophobia is often caused by a traumatic event experienced during early childhood. Adults may develop claustrophobia if, as children, they were trapped or kept in a confined space or were bullied or abused. It can manifest in extremely enclosed places or even in small rooms with closed windows or elevators.

Biological warfare

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Clearly, the fear of war is heavy on people’s minds. Of Americans polled, 49.5% fear the use of biological weapons, indicating concerns over non-conventional threats and warfare. The U.S. Department of Justice writes, “Small amounts of biological agents can kill hundreds of thousands in a large metropolitan area, and they can be dispersed by aerosols or weapons. They can affect civilian populations and limit troop movements.” Definitely scary.


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Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder and phobia. A person with agoraphobia is afraid to leave environments they know or consider to be safe. In severe cases, a person with agoraphobia considers their home to be the only safe environment. They may avoid leaving their home for days, months, or even years.


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We live on the internet. Our entire lives are now digital, from banking to communication and everything in between. We’ve seen movies where cyber-terrorists have completely shut down cities. Because of this, 49.3% of Americans are worried about attacks on information technology infrastructure.

Social phobia

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Up to one in 20 people has a social phobia. Social phobia can manifest in multiple ways: Better Health says it involves the worry that others will notice physical symptoms of anxiety, such as blushing, sweating, and stammering. It also involves the fear of looking stupid, silly, or ridiculous, appearing quiet and uninteresting to others, or being judged as socially inadequate.

Not having enough money for the future

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About 48% of respondents in the CSAF survey feared financial insecurity in the future, underscoring concerns over economic stability and personal financial planning. Millennials especially have a pessimistic view of money, as they aren’t feeling as financially secure as their parents were at their age.

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