Snakes and ladders top list of Canadians’ fears, just don’t ask them to speak publicly about it

08 June 2015

Toronto -

From creepy crawlers to using public restrooms, 9 out of 10 Canadians admit to having fears no matter how irrational, and two-thirds have actively tried to get rid of them, according to a new survey for the Fearless Challenge, a fundraising initiative launched today by the Canadian Cancer Society.

Snakes are the most common fear among both sexes, with 46 per cent of women and 33 per cent of men recoiling at the thought of meeting one. Turns out clowns are getting a bad rap – twice as many Canadians are scared of getting a bad haircut than meeting Bozo, 11 per cent versus 6 per cent.

The top five fears are snakes (40 per cent), heights (34 per cent), public speaking (33 per cent), spiders (31 per cent) and natural disasters (30 per cent). Surprises include the fact that young people are definitely not fearless – 68 per cent of Canadians 18 to 34 say they worry about their fears, compared with 43 per cent of those 55-plus.

Overall, 62 per cent of Canadian adults have taken steps to rid themselves of their fears, using various approaches, but the survey shows the most popular and effective tactic is confronting them head-on, with a 72 per cent success rate.

“The Fearless Challenge is all about confronting a fear in a fun way that can be shared with friends,” says Mike Kirkpatrick, Director of Marketing for the Canadian Cancer Society in Ontario. “And those friends egging you on with donations will also be supporting a great cause – helping people with cancer to confront their fears.”

The Fearless Challenge, in its second year, is throwing down the gauntlet at the feet of all Canadians, with the hope of engaging people from all communities, including those who may never have supported a charitable cause. No fear is too big, too small, too silly or too squeamish.

Highlights of the Fearless Challenge Survey include:

  • What Jaws effect? One in 5 Canadians are scared to swim in the ocean but only 13 per cent of them blame movies or TV;
  • Elementary school teachers and parents take note: 29 per cent of people who break into a sweat at the thought of public speaking cite a bad experience as a child;
  • Airborne dangers. Women are just as scared of using public restrooms as flying (12 per cent);
  • Millennial angst: 27 per cent of Canadians 18 to 34 often think about their fears, compared with 8 per cent of people 55-plus.

To learn more about the Fearless Challenge and to register, Canadians can visit where they can use the fear selector to come up with their own challenge ideas. Coaching support is available to help participants organize their challenges and provide tips on easy ways to fundraise.

Participant highlights from the 2014 Fearless Challenge included:

  • A woman afraid of being seen in public in a swimsuit wore her one-piece to work after raising almost $1,200;
  • A 20-year vegetarian who ate prairie oysters after he raised more than $2,500;
  • A woman with a fear of spicy foods ate an exceptionally hot ghost pepper after raising almost $2,000.

About the Fearless Challenge
The Fearless Challenge is an experiential fundraiser offered by the Canadian Cancer Society that invites people to confront their fears to help those living with cancer do the same. Money raised through the Fearless Challenge funds Canada's most promising cancer research, vital support services for cancer patients and their families and other important work so that fewer Canadians are touched by the disease. For more information, please visit

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About the Fearless Challenge Survey
From May 29 to June 1 2015, an online survey was conducted among a sample of 1,500 Canadian adults age 18+ who are also Angus Reid Forum panel members. The margin of error — which measures sampling variability — is +/-3-1per cent, 19 times out of 20. The sample was balanced by age, gender, region and education (and in Quebec, language) according to the most recent census data. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About the Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization dedicated to preventing cancer, saving lives and supporting people living with cancer through research funding, services and advocacy. We are Canada’s largest charity fighting all types of cancer and leading authority on cancer statistics and information. To learn more, call 1 888 939-3333 or visit

For more information, please contact:

Camille Beaubien

Senior Manager, Communications

Phone: 416-323-7181