If you’re afraid of sharks, no one can blame you. They’ve got scary teeth, they live in the deep, dark ocean, and they’re big! They make movies about them! But there’s a lot more to these mysterious underwater creatures than meets the eye. Let us take you on an educational journey through the fear of sharks statistics—with facts and figures that we guarantee will make you think twice about this misunderstood beast!
It’s natural to be afraid of something that could hurt you, but we often let that fear get out of control, and it starts to impact our lives in ways we don’t expect. That’s why we’ve put together some statistics about shark fears (galeophobia) to help you understand how common it is, and how irrational we can be about it sometimes.
And even though we know that sharks have a bad reputation for being bloodthirsty man-eaters (more on that later), we also know that learning about these creatures is just the thing to make us appreciate their beauty and grace.
So, if you can get past the whole “dangerous” part, read on—and let us know what you think!
Interesting Statistics About Fear of Sharks
- 51% of Americans are absolutely scared of sharks.
- Women are more afraid of sharks than men.
- 4 out of 10 Americans are scared of swimming in the ocean because they’re scared of sharks.
- 73% of Americans believe that sharks should be protected and not killed unless absolutely necessary.
- For every human killed by a shark, an estimated 16 million sharks are killed by humans every year.
- In the past half-century, there have been 464 fatal shark attacks around the world.
- There is a 1 in 3,748,067 chance of dying from being bitten by a shark.
How Many People Are Scared of Sharks?
1. Half of Americans are completely terrified of sharks.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “shark”?
For most people, it’s probably a tooth-filled mouth and violent jaws. That’s understandable—these fish have been depicted in media as vicious, bloodthirsty animals hell-bent on destroying human life since the very first Jaws movie was released in 1975!
Statistics show that 51% of Americans are absolutely scared of sharks. Of this percentage, 20% strongly agree with this sentiment. On the other hand, 45% are not scared of sharks, with 22% saying that they most definitely are not scared.
Many of our fear and misconceptions come from Hollywood films, but the more we educate ourselves on the true nature of sharks, the less afraid we will be.
2. Women are more afraid of sharks than men.
There is a myth going around that sharks prefer to bite men than women. Although a shark’s preference for biting men over women is not true, statistics show that more men die from sharks than women. This is because they’re more likely to engage in activities that lead to unprovoked bites, such as scuba diving, swimming, spear-fishing, and surfing.
Fear of sharks is a common phobia among both men and women. 55% of women surveyed reported being very afraid or terrified of sharks, while 46% of men reported feeling the same way.
3. 55 and older is the age group that is most terrified of sharks.
Our fear of sharks increases with age. That is why 55% of those aged 55 and above are scared of sharks compared to only 48% of those between the ages of 18 and 54. Younger people could also be less scared of sharks due to the increasing awareness being spread that sharks are actually not dangerous animals.
While there may be other age groups whose members also fear sharks, the 55 and above age group is the one that has the highest percentage of people who feel “scared” when thinking about sharks.
4. The Northeast region of the US has the highest percentage of people who are terrified of sharks.
The Northeast is home to the highest percentage of people who are scared of sharks. But don’t worry, Northeasterners, you’re not alone.
According to statistics about the fear of sharks, 55% of those who live in the Northeast region of the US are scared of sharks, while only 48% of those living in the South region report feeling the same way. Additionally, 51% of those in the Midwest and 50% of those in the West are scared of sharks.
You might think that because the Northeast is right next to the Atlantic Ocean and has so many summer residents, people there are more used to ocean life and less afraid of sharks. But you’d be wrong!
5. 4 out of 10 Americans are scared of swimming in the ocean because they’re scared of sharks.
Approximately 38% of Americans say that swimming in the ocean is scary because they’re worried about sharks. However, of this percentage, only 15% strongly agree, while 23% only somewhat agree with this sentiment.
Additionally, women and those living in the West region of the United States are more scared of swimming in the ocean because of sharks compared to men and those who live in other regions of the US.
6. 72% of Australians are terrified of sharks.
(Sea Life Sydney)
This is a pretty surprising statistic, isn’t it? We just assume that Australians would be cool with sharks. I mean, they’re on the other side of the world from them! But it turns out that 72% of those surveyed said that they were terrified of sharks.
On the contrary, only 5% of Australians know how many species of shark there are worldwide.
With a coastline stretching around 25,000km and a population of roughly 25 million, Australia is one of the most isolated countries in the world. But that doesn’t mean you can relax in the water.
Additionally, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature released stats showing that 30% of the world’s rays and sharks species are already endangered. Unfortunately, 61% of Australians are not aware that such a huge percentage of species is in danger of becoming extinct.
7. In Australia, Victoria is the state with the most people who are scared of sharks.
(Sea Life Sydney)
Seventy-eight percent of people who live in Victoria are scared of sharks. On the contrary, 57% of those who live in the Northern Territory are terrified of them, making it the state with the least people scared of sharks.
Moreover, 75% of people in Queensland and Western Australia and 74% of those in South Australia and Tasmania are scared of these fishes.
8. The top reason why Australians are scared of sharks is that “they attack people.”
(Sea Life Sydney)
It’s disheartening to know that the top reason why people are scared of sharks is because of the misconception that sharks attack people. In reality, however, sharks generally don’t attack people and would rather eat fish and marine mammals.
Aside from this misconception, other reasons why Australians are scared of sharks are because of their teeth and that they’re bigger than humans.
Battling Fear of Sharks Statistics
9. 73% of Americans believe that sharks should be protected and not killed unless absolutely necessary.
Of this percentage, 42% strongly agree with this sentiment, while 32% only somewhat agree. Additionally, women (76%) are more inclined than men (69%) to believe that we should protect sharks from being hunted or killed unless absolutely necessary. Also, 75% of those living in the Northeast part of the United States share this sentiment.
10. In the US, 82% of people agree that Great White Sharks play an integral role in the ocean’s ecosystem.
On the contrary, 10% of Americans still disagree with this statement. Since they are apex predators, sharks play a crucial role in the ocean’s ecosystem by being an indicator of ocean health and maintaining the species that are below them in the food chain. They also help eliminate the sick and weak animals in the ocean.
11. 77% of Australians would gladly support any effort to protect sharks in the wild.
(Sea Life Sydney)
Despite the fact that over 70% of Australians are scared of sharks, a majority of them would still gladly support any initiative to help protect sharks and reduce threats in the wild.
With this insight, organizations protecting sharks are now more fueled than ever to continue their efforts and come up with more solutions to reduce the threats that sharks face in the ocean.
Statistics to Lessen Your Fear of Sharks
12. For every human killed by a shark, an estimated 16 million sharks are killed by humans every year.
(National Wildlife Federation)
Every year, six humans die from a shark bite every year. On the other hand, around 100 million sharks are killed by humans each year. With this in mind, perhaps sharks should be more afraid of us than we are of them.
Just to give you a little context here: out of 7 billion people on this planet, only 9 people died after being bitten by sharks last year and died as a result of those bites. Of course, that’s nine too many—we wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But it’s still an incredibly small number in comparison to the total human population.
On the other hand, we kill about 100 million sharks every year. Now, there are about 500+ different species of sharks who are all endangered or at risk for endangerment due to a variety of reasons including overfishing, habitat loss, and pollution.
As you can see, sharks need our help.
13. Globally, the annual average number of unprovoked shark bites for the past five years is 72.
An unprovoked shark bite is when a human who is in a shark’s habitat is bitten without provoking the shark. In 2021, there were a total of 73 confirmed unprovoked shark bite incidents around the world. That said, shark bites are less frequent than we may think.
14. The US had the most incidents of unprovoked shark bites in 2021.
Of the 73 unprovoked shark bite incidents around the world, 47 occurred in the US. Australia came second, with 12 of those incidents occurring there. Moreover, Brazil, New Zealand, and South Africa recorded three incidents, New Caledonia recorded two, Canada, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Ecuador recorded one.
Out of the 11 deaths, 9 were a result of unprovoked shark bites. It doesn’t seem like a lot when you look at it from a global perspective. Australia had the most number of deaths, with three people dying from a shark bite that year. In the US, out of 47 unprovoked shark bite incidents, one resulted in a fatality.
16. In the past half-century, there have been 464 fatal shark attacks around the world.
After looking at the numbers, it is logical to say that sharks aren’t the human killers we think they are. The chance of being killed by a shark is only 1 in 3.7 million. However, thanks to the lack of awareness and how they are portrayed in movies, the fear of sharks is still growing.
It’s true: despite their fearsome reputation, sharks are pretty chill for the most part.
17. There is a 1 in 3,748,067 chance of dying from being bitten by a shark.
Relax. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to get eaten by a shark. You probably don’t need to worry about dying from a shark bite, but you may have a fear of sharks that is out of proportion.
According to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, you have only a 1 in 3,748,067 chance of dying from a shark bite. So while it is statistically possible for someone to be fatally bitten by a shark, the chances are actually quite slim.
In fact, you have a higher chance of dying from complications related to getting struck by lightning (1 in 79,746) or by falling off your bed (1 in 2 million). Or even from an injury from a meteorite (1 in 250,000).
A shark bite is one of the last things you should worry about. In fact, you have a better chance of being killed by a falling object than getting bitten by a shark!
Here are some other things that are more likely to kill you:
- You can’t tell me lightning doesn’t scare you. The odds are 1 in 79,746 that it’ll strike you dead.
- If you’re in an airplane, there’s a 1 in 9,821 chance it’ll crash and kill everyone on board. (But don’t worry—if you’re just driving on the road, there’s still a 1 in 101 chance your car will crash.)
- Do you like fireworks? Well, maybe steer clear—there’s a 1 in 340,733 chance they’ll blow up in your face and take your life.
- Please make sure to wear helmets while riding your bike, because there’s a 1 in 4,717 chance you’ll die if anything goes wrong.
And don’t forget, you’ve got better odds of winning the lottery than you do of dying from the bite of a shark.
18. Hippos cause more deaths than sharks, killing an average of 500 people in Africa per year.
Contrary to sharks, hippos have an aggressive nature. In Africa, they kill an average of 500 humans each year. However, they play an important role in the ecosystem.
Also, it’s important to note that humans cause more harm to hippos than the other way around. In fact, hippos are already considered a vulnerable animal species, with only 115,000 to 130,000 of them remaining today.
19. In the US, there are six million more car accidents than shark attacks.
Despite this statistic, the fear of sharks is so much more common than the fear of driving or cars. This shows us that our fear of sharks is not rooted in anything that’s logical but rather a result of the instincts we inherited from our ancestors and the inaccurate portrayal of sharks in movies and other forms of media.
20. Only 17 of the more than 500 shark species are known to bite humans regularly.
With all of the great-white hype you’ve seen in movies and TV shows, it’s hard to remember that sharks are just shy fishes whose favorite activities are eating and sleeping.
Sharks: they’re not all that scary! The number of shark species that bite people regularly is actually quite small (less than 4%) compared to the total number of shark species in the world.
Those 17 species include tiger sharks, bull sharks, and great white sharks. These three (referred to as “The Big Three”) species are responsible for most attacks on humans.
But we’re not bashing sharks here. They’re just doing their shark thing, and we’re cool with it—even though they might have a tendency to bite our legs off when they see us in their watery domains.
21.Florida has more shark bites than anywhere else in the U.S.
Florida is famous for its high temperatures, beautiful beaches, and… shark bites?
Shark bites are on the rise, and Florida is leading the way. In 2021, Florida had 28 shark bites and accounted for 60% of all recorded U.S. shark bites and 38% of unprovoked shark bites worldwide!
So why are so many Floridians being bitten by sharks? Well, for one thing, Florida is surrounded by water. And it turns out that sharks really like to bite people who are swimming or surfing in the ocean!
In addition to its proximity to the sea, Florida is also a popular tourist destination for people from all over the world—and when combined with the fact that Floridians are some of America’s most avid swimmers (or surfers), this makes them a prime target for hungry sharks looking for their next meal!
So while you might want to pack your snake boots when you come visit Florida (just in case), steer clear of the ocean—or at least stay close to shore!
22. Surfing and board sports make up the largest portion (51%) of shark bites.
When you think of sharks, do you picture surfers?
Most people don’t, but they should. That’s because 51% of shark-bite incidents involve people who were surfing or using other board sports, like paddleboarding.
If you’ve ever been surfing, you know how fun it can be—but did you also know that most shark bites are related to surfing and board sports? That’s right: 51% of shark bites are related to surfing, and the reason is pretty simple. It has to do with where surfers spend the most time: The “surf zone.”
See, the surf zone is where sharks like to hang out (for reasons we’ll get into later), and if you’re surfing or doing any other kind of board sport, you’re probably going to be there for a while. It’s the area just off-shore where the waves break (i.e., where all the real action happens).
And when you’re there, you might even be attracting sharks without knowing it. How could that happen? Well, you might be splashing around in the water while you surf or do your thing. Or maybe you’re wiping out and making a bunch of noise and motion in the water. You could also be making a lot of noise paddling to keep yourself afloat on your board. And all this activity can attract sharks without you even knowing it—because splashy noises can sound like prey to them!
We’re not trying to attract sharks, of course—it’s just a consequence of being in their territory. So if you want to avoid getting bitten by a shark while surfing, it might be best to stick to watersports that don’t require you to visit the surf zone!
To make sure you’re safe from shark attacks while surfing or kayaking, it’s important to be careful about when you get into the water. Try not to move your feet too much—sharks see movement as prey, so if you’re thrashing around, they’ll mistake you for something they can eat!
If you do happen to get bitten by a shark while surfing, do not panic! Make sure to stay calm and tread water until help arrives.
Related Questions (FAQs)
How scary are sharks?
Sharks may appear scary because of their sharp teeth and pointed fins, but there’s so much more to them than meets the eye. In fact, sharks should probably be more scared of us than we of them because every year, one million sharks die at the hands of humans.
Why do we fear sharks?
In the old days, our ancestors feared sharks because they didn’t know a lot about them. It’s normal for humans to be scared of things that are unfamiliar to them. That is why this fear remains to this day. Lastly, many fears are developed through social interactions.
Can sharks smell fear?
Fortunately, the answer to this question is no. Sharks have a really strong sense of smell, but they can’t smell fear and other emotions. However, you should know that sharks also have an electro-sensing ability, which helps them detect their prey’s heartbeat and movement.
How far away can sharks smell blood?
This depends on the species of shark. Some sharks can smell anything that’s only a few hundred meters away, but most of them don’t. There are also sharks that can smell blood from a quarter-mile away. However, the smell doesn’t instantly reach them.
Can sharks be friendly?
There are friendly shark species that exist in the ocean. The media has just done a poor job of portraying sharks, so we think every shark is dangerous and scary. Some of the friendliest shark species include the leopard shark, hammerhead shark, zebra shark, whale shark, and angel shark.
While it may be difficult to entirely overcome the fear of sharks, you now have a much better idea of how common it is. You’re not alone. That’s why we created this guide – so you can have access to statistics and facts about phobias like the fear of sharks – any time, day or night.
So what do you think? Do any of these statistics surprise you? Were you expecting more or less people to have a fear of sharks? Is there anything else you would have liked us to include in this list of statistics? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you!
Sharks aren’t all bad—they help keep ecosystems functioning and healthy, and there’s nothing we can do about them anyway! So next time you hit up the beach for a swim and see a fin out in the distance, don’t freak out. It’s probably just a dolphin anyway.