Oct 7, 2020 - World

Survey finds we worry about the wrong risks

Data: The Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll Report
Data: The Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll Report; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

A new global risk poll surveyed tens of thousands of people in 142 countries to determine what people worry about when it comes to risk and safety.

Why it matters: The poll offers a telling snapshot of how people around the world perceive the risks they face, which often turn out to be different than the risks they are actually experiencing.

By the numbers: The poll, which was carried out by Gallup and the Lloyd's Register Foundation (LRF), found that people around the world were most worried about the effects of severe weather, violent crime and food.

Be smart: The survey found that what people around the world thought was a major risk didn't always line up with the risks they were actually experiencing, notes Sarah Cumbers, director of evidence and insight at LRF.

  • That was especially true of violent crime, where nearly twice the percentage of respondents reported being very worried about violence as those who had actually experienced it.
  • 43% of Americans were worried about violent crime, even though the U.S. murder rate in 2019 — the year the survey was done — was lower than it was in 1960.
  • By contrast, respondents tended to underplay less dramatic but more common threats like malfunctioning appliances and mental health.

The bottom line: Availability bias means we tend to pay more attention to risks that demand lots of attention — like the violence that plays heavily in the media. But we risk ignoring the threats that are statistically more likely to get us.

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