11% too afraid of sharks to go into the water

August 04, 2011, 2:01 PM GMT+0

As Discovery Channel’s Shark Week continues for its twenty-fourth year, we thought it was appropriate to conduct a survey on the oft-feared and maybe just a little misunderstood animals. As the results reveal, one in ten are too afraid of sharks to go into the water, but most people have other more pressing concerns at the beach.

Our first question was straightforward: “Are you afraid of getting attacked by a shark?” 11% answered that they were very afraid and would not go into the water because of it, while 14% said they were somewhat afraid and 23% said they were just a little scared. 52% bravely said they were not afraid at all.

Next we asked what our respondents what they worried about when they went to the beach. While as the previous question showed, almost half had some sort of apprehension about sharks, their biggest concern at beach was more mundane: sunburns. Another sort of animal attack, albeit far less frequently dramatized, was chosen more frequently than sharks—Jellyfish stings. The complete results were:

  • Sunburn: 46%
  • Being pulled into the ocean by a rip-current: 24%
  • Jellyfish sting: 23%
  • Sharks: 20%
  • Getting sand in clothes or shoes: 16%

While Sharks have a deadly reputation, we wanted to know how respondents thought they compared with other sources of beach-side deaths, so we asked what respondents thought caused the most accidental deaths at the beach. Accidental drowning led the pack with 49% of responses, followed by dehydration or heat stroke with 36% and boating accidents with 11%. Shark attacks came in last, registering 4%. We cannot provide definite information on which of these is the leading cause of death at the beach, but the CDC reported 3,443 non-boating related fatal drowning in 2010, while there were about 668 heat-related deaths a year from 1999 to 2003 and the Coast Guard documented 672 deaths from recreation boating accidents in 2010. There are, on the other hand, about 5 deaths from shark attacks reported world-wide every year. Please note, however, that none of these figures is simply for the beach.

Finally, to see how one of the primary sources for the image violent image of sharks—the movie Jaws—stacked up against other horror films, we asked respondents which movie monster they found the most frightening. While 9% of respondents selected the shark from Jaws, it was the supernatural which scared our respondents the most, with demon from the Exorcist and Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street being the most chosen. The complete results were:

  • The demon from The Exorcist: 24%
  • Freddy Krueger (from the Nightmare on Elm Street films): 16%
  • Jason (from the Friday the 13th films): 9%
  • The shark from Jaws: 9%
  • The alien from Alien: 8%
  • Zombies: 5%
  • Dracula: 2%
  • Frankenstein's monster: 1%

Image Source: Press Association