Snakes top the list as the greatest fear for both Canadian men and women

A Russell's viper snake swimming in the Indian Ocean. (Paul Goldstein/REX Shutterstock)

TORONTO – Whether it’s snakes or public speaking, nine out of 10 Canadians admit to having some kind of fear, according to a new survey funded by the Canadian Cancer Society.

The survey is part of the Fearless Challenge, a fundraising initiative launched Monday by the charity, and asked 1,500 Canadians over the age of 18 what their greatest phobias are.

Snakes made the top of the list for both sexes, with 46 per cent of women and 33 per cent of men recoiling at the thought of seeing one.

Here are the Top 5 fears for both men and women.

Top 5 fears for men

  • Snakes (33%)
  • Heights (31%)
  • Public speaking (28%)
  • Spiders (21%)
  • Tight spaces (20%)
  • Natural disasters (20%)

 Top 5 fears for women

  • Snakes (46%)
  • Spiders (40%)
  • Natural disasters (40%)
  • Mice/rats (38%)
  • Heights (37%)
  • Public speaking (37%)

While a majority of Canadians admitted to having a fear even if they felt it was irrational, another 62 per cent of us have actively taken steps to confront our fears head-on with a 72 per cent success rate.

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The survey also found that Hollywood films have an effect on our fear centres. One in five Canadians said they are scared to swim in the ocean, with 13 per cent blaming movies or TV.

And as for which age group spends the most time contemplating their anxieties, 27 per cent of Canadians 18 to 34 often think about their fears, compared with 8 per cent of people 55-plus.

The Canadian Cancer Society says it is helping those across the country conquer their fears with an initiative that is crowdfunding meets Fear Factor.

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

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Now in its second year, participants create a video of themselves describing their fear and setting a target for how much cash it will take to face that fear. When the fundraising goal has been met, participants make another a video proving that they haven’t chickened out.

READ MORE: How to beat stage fright and present like a pro

The campaign is similar to the ice-bucket challenge that spawned hundreds of thousands around the world to film themselves dumping ice water on their head, which raised more than $115 million worldwide for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Some participants from last year’s challenge included a woman afraid of being seen in public in a swimsuit who wore her one-piece to work after raising almost $1,200 and a woman with a fear of spicy foods ate an extremely hot ghost pepper after raising almost $2,000.


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