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What do Australians Fear the Most?

Australians told us their greatest fears – but are these justified by the facts?

There are so many things to worry about these days, it’s hard to know where to focus our attention.

That’s why we asked more than 1,000 Australians about the things that concerned them the most. And  now we’ve compared the results to the likelihood of these events actually happening – based on published statistics from various sources.

The 2017 survey reveals respondents are still worried primarily about health outcomes, placing cancer, heart attack, car accidents and stroke at the top of the fear table.

Compared to 2016, more Australians are focusing on the threat posed by dementia, as well as citing terrorism as a growing concern.

The key findings of the survey

Our respondents were asked to:

Rank the following events in order or likelihood to happen to someone like you in the future (1 is most likely to happen, 10 is least likely to happen).

Here’s a rundown of Australians’ greatest fears.

NobleOak Life Limited: PureProfile Survey – December 2017. 1,006 respondents.

But is there a mismatch between perception and reality?

While Australians rate cancer as their primary fear, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show that heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country.

We aren’t as concerned about dementia as perhaps we should be. It ranked number 6 in 2017 but is actually the second leading cause of death in Australia, overtaking cerebrovascular diseases and cancer. Notably, when it comes to women, dementia is already the leading cause of death in this demographic.

While still lower than the true leading causes of death, 2017’s respondents have become more concerned about Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia, rating them as a greater fear than in 2016.

And car accidents rate far lower as an actual cause of death than our respondents imagine. According to the federal government, there were 1,295 deaths resulting from car accidents in 2016. In contrast, ABS stats show ischaemic (a condition that restricts blood flow) heart disease claimed more than 19,000 lives in the same year.

More people than in 2016 are also nominating terrorism as a significant concern, although it does rank quite low on the list compared to health-related fears.

 Statistics revealed

The top 5 leading causes of death for Australians in 2016 are:

Leading Causes of Death (ABS) Number of Deaths
Ischaemic heart diseases (120-125) 19,077
Dementia, including Alzheimer disease (F01, F03, G30) 13, 126
Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69) 10,451
Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34) 8,410
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47) 8,048


Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australia’s leading causes of death, 2016. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0~2016~Main%20Features~Australia%27s%20leading%20causes%20of%20death,%202016~3

Other less likely causes of death for Australians include:

Ranking Event Average Australian deaths per annum
1 Suicide 2,795
2 Car accident 1,495
3 Plane crash 37
4 Lightning strike 5-10
5 Shark attack 3
6 Terrorist attack 3


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Average annual deaths between 2012 and 2016. http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-media/reporting-suicide/facts-and-stats
  2. Australian Road Deaths Database. Average annual deaths between 2010 and 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_Australia_by_year#cite_note-BITRE_Bulletin_Dec2013-4
  3. Australian Transport Safety Bureau. Australian average annual deaths between 2005 and 2014. https://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/2015/ar-2015-082/
  4. Bureau of Meteorology. https://www.australiawidefirstaid.com.au/lightning-strikes/
  5. Australian Shark Attack File. http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/02/10/how-many-people-do-sharks-kill-australia-each-year
  6. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Average annual deaths between 1978 and 2014. http://theaimn.com/suicide-domestic-violence-and-terrorism-the-cost/


Most Australians have a broad understanding of risks

The results of the survey show that most people understand the likelihood of tragic events such as shark and terror attacks is fairly low.

But when it comes to health risks projections indicate the number of people aged 80 and over will double in the next 20 years and it is likely that dementia will become our leading cause of death within the next few years.

When it comes to taking our Life Insurance, one of the key challenges is working out how much cover you need. We’re helping to address this challenge by launching our online Life Insurance Assessment Calculator . It only takes about 5 to 10 minutes to complete and is free to use.

You can download the full “Life Insurance in Australia – Consumer Behaviour Transformation” research paper here.