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Flight Anxiety Reported from 1986 to 2015

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BACKGROUND: Fear of flying is one of the most common phobias. It hinders people in performing their work and hampers family relations. Even though flight traffic has increased, there are new fears. Valid studies are needed to answer whether there have been changes in the prevalence of flight anxiety, are there sex differences in relation to fear of flying, use of alcohol, and tranquilizers, which situations cause the most flight anxiety, and whether the above factors have changed compared to a similar study from 1986.

METHODS: A questionnaire was distributed to a representative random sample of the Norwegian population (N = 5500), where 36% answered. To assess flight anxiety across the time period, we used similar instruments to those we used in 1986.

RESULTS: The prevalence of an assumed flight phobia decreased from 8% in 1986 to 3% in 2015. The percentage of those reported to never fly had decreased from 5% in 1986 to 0.5% in 2015. There were 11.0% who always used alcohol in 1986 and 7.5% in 2015 and 3% and 2%, respectively, always used tranquillizers. More women reported being afraid of both flying and other situations compared to men. Turbulence, unknown sounds, and fear of terror attacks caused the most anxiety.

DISCUSSION: Flight anxiety still affects a considerable proportion of the Norwegian population and more women than men report that they are afraid of flying. However, in spite of methodology, people are significantly less afraid of flying than in 1986.

Grimholt TK, Bonsaksen T, Schou-Bredal I, Heir T, Lerdal A, Skogstad L, Ekeberg Ø. Flight anxiety reported from 1986 to 2015. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2019; 90(4):384–388.
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Keywords: airline passengers; anxiety; flying; gender; phobia; population and terror attack

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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