George Graham

Living in Fear

screamWhat is your greatest fear? Dying? Getting seriously ill? Losing a loved one?

If those are the fears that keep you awake at night, you are not a typical American. According to the first-ever national study of such matters, the typical American’s greatest fear is walking alone at night.


Even with that AK-47 slung over their shoulder? Or that .50-caliber Glock in their waist band?

It’s crime that scares Americans most, the study showed. Most Americans think violent crime is rising, even though the evidence shows crime rates are falling. quotes Dr. Edward Day, a sociologist who worked on the project, as saying:

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 assault and others; but they also believe these crimes (and others) have increased over the past 20 years.

It must be the TV. Every second show is about cops and robbers; the news is full of scary stories about some young woman being abducted, raped and murdered.

The researchers found that the most fearful people shared “a high level of watching television, specifically talk and true-crime shows.”

But newspapers relish lurid crime stories, too.

Sandra reads the local paper every morning, and she makes sure our doors are always locked – day and night.

Americans are also terrified of having their identities stolen, the study showed. “Safety on the Internet” was another top-three worry (makes you wonder what they’re up to on the web, doesn’t it?)

“Being the victim of a mass/random shooting” was in fourth place, just ahead of “public speaking.”

Becoming ill wasn’t among the nation’s top fears, and barely made it into the top-five “concerns.”

Dying didn’t show up at all.

I suppose death isn’t so frightening if it isn’t the result of violent crime. As Kenny Rogers put it:

The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.

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About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for