"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
When FDR said those immortal words, the United States was in the depths of the Great Depression. People were fearful— and for good reason: the economy was in the toilet, unemployment was decimating urban (and rural) populations across the country, and far away, in Europe, the spectre of Nazism was beginning to raise its head...
Still, President Roosevelt admonished the population to turn up their chins and face fear head-on. And apparently, it worked. In the long run, the U.S. economy didn't just come back to life... it roared back with a strength the world had never before seen. And although there was more than a little suffering in the years ahead (the most devastating conflict in human history, for example) FDR's leadership helped to steer the American people into greener pastures.
So in our fast-paced modern world, complete with a 24-hour news cycle which can serve to stoke our most primal fears, maybe it would behoove most of us to keep his words in mind. Amidst threats of aggressive behavior, climate change, super-bugs, even concerns about your favorite food being carcinogenic... it's important to remember that the world most of us inhabit is the safest it has ever been.
Here are 42 facts to help put your mind at ease:
42. I Vant to Suck Your Blood
We'll start with a tame one.
Vampire bats may have a frightening name, but they actually don’t usually bite humans. Their preferred prey? Although they'll technically take a nibble of any sleeping mammal, they tend to focus on the most dormant creatures around. That can mean cows, pigs, and other animals that we humans have conveniently domesticated, and given extremely sedentary lives.
That's right: it's almost as though we're allies to these little blood-suckers. After all, our farms are basically a vampire bat's buffet.
This is one you probably heard from your mother.
After you eat, it's essential that you wait between 30 minutes and an hour before you hit the water. Right? The myth claims that your body will cramp up, and it could cause you to drown.
In reality, while it may feel slightly uncomfortable to swim on a full stomach, you should absolutely be fine. After all, the human body is a pretty resilient thing.
40. Seeing Red
If you've ever witnessed a bullfight (or even seen a depiction of it in a movie or on TV), you'll undoubtedly understand the concept that the color red instigates aggression in a bull. After all, if that wasn't the case, why would those colorful matadores insist on waving a red flag in their faces?
It actually turns out that the trick of the act is more about movement than color. In fact, bulls are almost entirely colorblind—able to see only shades of blue and yellow. It's the waving of the flag which irritates them and prompts a charge toward the person responsible.
P.S. fun fact: the flag which matadores wave is called a muleta.
39. Sinking with Style
Anyone vaguely accustomed to tales of perilous journeys, mythical sagas, or foreign explorations (which covers virtually everyone) is aware of one common hazard for any prospective jungle explorer: the literal pitfall.
Stumbling into a patch of quicksand is typically the utmost peril for any fictional adventurer. If movies, TV shows, books, and even fairy tales are to be believed, a person who has stumbled into one of these sandy pitfalls must have a handy length of rope at hand or else their lives are essentially doomed.
But the truth is, if you manage to drown in a pit of quicksand, you probably weren't trying that hard to get out.
The human body is so dense, it’s impossible to fully submerse oneself in quicksand. Once someone sinks to about their waist, they stop. That's it. No desperate reaching for a friend's just-out-of-reach hand... just a mildly awkward hurdle in your morning, and some sand in the shoe.
38. Germaphobia Mania
Germaphobes everywhere make sure to wash their hands multiple times a day, and will most likely have hand sanitizer at their desk.
While it’s true that bacteria is everywhere, less than one percent of it will actually make you sick.
37. What's That Smell?
Some individuals think that consuming expired food will lead to their demise, or result in severe illness. However, the truth is that sell-by dates are rather arbitrary, and consumers should rely on their discretion if the food looks or smells like it has genuinely spoiled. If you inadvertently consume rancid meat or expired food, it could result in a nasty stomach illness. This often leads to a unpleasant night (or several) of vomiting and diarrhea. However, it's uncommon for food contamination to cause fatal outcomes.
36. Dreamy Cheese
Many people say that eating cheese and other snacks before bedtime will cause nightmares. In reality, very little research has been done on this, but the most comprehensive study to date found no link between cheese consumption and nightmares.
35. Swimming with Sharks
Some people are afraid to swim in the ocean, because they’re afraid of a shark attack. However, in the United States, there is only one shark attack every two years, and they are usually surfers, because a shark thinks the surfboard is a seal. You have a better chance at winning the lottery.
34. Riding the Microwave
Many people believe that if you stand too close to a microwave, it emits enough radiation to give you cancer. This is not true. The level of radiation is not high enough to damage cells in the human body, so it cannot give you cancer.
33. "It Grows Back Thicker"
Many girls are raised to believe that if they shave hair on their body, it will grow back thicker and darker. This is not true. The thickness and pigment of hair is determined by the follicle, which is still alive when you shave it, so it doesn’t make a difference.
People have been scared to ride in airplanes since they were first invented, but it is actually very safe. You have a higher chance of getting into a deadly accident every time you get into a car than you do flying in an airplane. Even in the cases where an airplane has crashed, the passengers and pilot survive 90% of the time.
31. Wanna Play?
Sightings of “killer clowns” popped up all over the news, and it triggered a lot of people’s worst nightmares. Most killer clown sightings were just pranks, and once they were on the news, young people began to do it more often, because they thought it was funny.
30. Thrift Swag
There are a lot of people who are afraid to buy items from thrift stores, because they think they’re going to bring home bedbugs, lice, or other nasty critters. If you brought home a couch that was sitting on the curb for a week, that fear is probably justified. However, at thrift stores, items come directly from the people who are donating, and the employees throw away the majority of items that are dirty and unacceptable for resale. Also, people interact with used items all the time, like furniture in restaurants that have been sat on by thousands of other people, and yet that doesn’t seem to bother them.
29. Snakes and Stones May... Wait, That's Not Right.
Being afraid of snakes is very natural, because it’s part of survival. While approximately 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes annually, merely 5 of them will succumb to their injuries. In theory, no one should ever succumb to a snake bite, as hospitals possess anti-venoms for every type of poisonous snake. There's also snake repellent for those that live in high-risk areas.
28. Killer Coasters
Many people are afraid of heights, so of course, they’re terrified of going on a roller coaster. Nevertheless, only 4 people lose their lives in roller-coaster related accidents each year, often being amusement park employees. To provide some perspective, falling out of bed, which leads to the end of 450 lives per year, poses a higher risk to your wellbeing.
27. Hungry Hungry Gators
When tourists visit the Southern United States, they harbor fears of encountering an aggressive alligator. This is especially true of Florida, where tourists travel from all over the world to go to Disney World. It’s smart to make sure you children and pets stay away from lakes and streams in Florida, but you are actually more likely to win the lottery than get bit by a gator.
26. Bear Necessities
When traveling or living in a wooded area, people are often fearful of a bear attack. However, statistically speaking, you have a higher chance of meeting your end because of a cow than a bear.
25. A Little Seasoning Perhaps?
There is a belief that when a fly lands on your food, you shouldn’t eat it anymore. Some say that flies lay eggs immediately, but the truth is a little grosser. When a fly attempts to consume something, it first regurgitates or vomits on it, and then attempts to suck it up for ingestion. Not to mention the bacteria they may be carrying. If flies are gathering on food for a long time, it’s best not to eat it. However, if a fly lands on your food for a split second and you swat it away, you probably got there in time before it puked on your food.
24. Listen to Doctor
Some individuals are so averse to substances, they even avoid routine, non-prescription medicinal treatments. This is because there is this idea that taking any drug always lead to addiction. While addiction is a very serious issue, the usage of substances does not automatically mean someone is going to get addicted. If your doctor says it isn't addictive, you're likely OK. Furthermore, your doctor is trained to balance the risks and the benefits, so even if a medication is addictive, it may still be wise to take it to help combat more pressing health concerns.
23. Lazy Stoners!
While marijuana is becoming legalized in more parts of the world, there are still many people who are afraid of it ruining society. In reality, weed is not addictive at all, and recent research suggests that it isn't a "gateway drug" either.
22. That Trendy Epidemic
Every few years, a new killer virus will be all over the news. For a while, it was the Bird Flu. People misunderstood the illness and became afraid to eat chicken. In reality, the only way to catch it would be to fly to an Asian country and touch an infected bird. Then, it was the Zika Virus. While these illnesses are very serious, the odds of actually catching it was extremely slim. According to the Center of Disease Control, 532 Americans have contracted the Zika Virus in the territories like Puerto Rico, Samoa, and the Caribbean islands in 2017. Only 175 of them contracted the illness inside of the United States borders. To put this into perspective, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning.
21. A Poor Conductor
“Astraphobia” is a fear of storms. People are scared that they will get hit by lightning. In truth, every year in the United States, 300 people are struck by lightning, with only 30 of those experiencing fatal outcomes. As long as you stay inside and avoid tall metal objects and trees, the odds are that you will be fine.
20. Seven Years a Ball of Gum
There is a myth that if you swallow a piece of gum, it will sit in your stomach for up to 7 years. The truth is that gum cannot be digested like normal food, but it will pass through and come out when you go to the bathroom in a few days after swallowing it.
19. "They Took Our Jobs!"
Right-wing politicians may claim that immigrant workers are taking jobs away from Americans, and this causes fear and anger among people who are struggling to pay their bills. What they never seem to realize is that immigrants take the jobs that the vast majority of Americans don’t want. Vice did a piece called The Worst Job In New York: Immigrant America. They showed life as a dairy farm employee, which involved getting pooped on by cows every single day. The reporter went to a local employment agency to see if unemployed Americans would be willing to work at the dairy farm, and none of the job seekers wanted to apply. The only people willing to deal with those working conditions were Mexican immigrants. According to the National Academy of Science, the only segment of the population that is significantly effected by immigrant labor are teenagers who drop out of high school.
18. Don't Try This at Home
One of the most common fears is heights.
Surely, fair enough. We'd delight in being the ones to bring favorable news, and state that heights aren't really that bad but... a substantial fall can still bring significant harm to your health.
That being said...
A fall from an incredibly elevated height does not inevitably lead to your demise. For example, Julianne Diller and Shayna Richardson are two women who fell 3 kilometers out of planes and still managed to survive with only some broken bones.
17. Battlefield Streets
More Americans have lost their lives due to firearm-related incidents in the city of Chicago alone than there were in the combined conflicts of Afghanistan and Iraq.
That one... maybe isn't so reassuring. But it does serve to illustrate an interesting point in terms of common media narratives can distort our sense of reality.
16. Spidey Senses?
While deadly spiders do exist, the chances of them biting and causing someone's demise are extremely rare. Each year in the United States, only 6 people succumb to spider bites. If you seek medical treatment immediately, you should be fine. To provide some perspective, more individuals succumb to injuries from being thrown off a horse than from spider bites.
15. C's Get Degrees?
Young people are put under extreme amounts of pressure to get good grades in college, especially if they plan to move on to Grad School. For many students, this turns into a very legitimate form of anxiety and fear that if they get bad grades, it means they won’t have a promising career, and their lives will be ruined. Most students do not realize that if you fail, it’s actually possible to take the class over again. The new grade will replace the old one, and your GPA will increase. Many employers also never see your GPA, and are more concerned with completing your degree, work experience, and references. That said, it's still good advice to dedicate yourself to your studies: good grades can provide you with an advantage, and the things you learn can aid you throughout this crazy journey we call life.
14. Lethal Weapon: The Penny
A common myth is that if you drop a penny from the top of the Empire State Building and it hits someone, it could potentially be fatal to them.
In reality, though, this myth is pretty easily dispelled. After all, a penny is hardly the most aerodynamic object in the world. If a penny were dropped from that kind of height, wind and air-resistance would cause it to spin and flop around as it fell. And if, by some absolute miracle, the little copper projectile actually managed to hit someone? The victim's suffering would probably be roughly similar to an annoying flick in the head.
13. Crack Away (Or don't... it's still annoying)!
There is a long-standing myth that cracking your knuckles or other joins will lead to arthritis. A man named Donald Unger did an experiment where he cracked only one knuckle every day for 60 years. He never got arthritis in either hand.
12. Nice Little Scorpions
Scorpions are no joke. You don’t want to get stung by one, but if you do, don’t panic. It doesn't mean your life is going to end. Every year, 1.2 million people are stung by a scorpion, however, only 3,250 do not survive. The vast majority of these deaths happened in remote places in the world. In the United States, there have only been 4 scorpion related deaths over the course of 11 years.
11. Moon Fever
There is a common phrase when things start to get a little weird, that “it must be a full moon”. Some people even go to the extent to stay indoors on the night of a full moon, for fear that it brings out the worst in people. There is no scientific proof that this is true. While some research suggests that there are higher instances of unlawful behavior during a full moon, this is actually related to the coincidence of a full moon falling on weekends or holidays, which inherently have a greater probability of such incidents.
10. Spontaneous Combustion
Every year, there is at least one case of “spontaneous combustion”, which is when someone bursts into flames seemingly out of nowhere. For years, it became an urban legend that people have the ability to set themselves on fire without warning. Spontaneous combustion has never been scientifically proven to be a real thing. The cases all involved flammable clothing standing too close to a fire.
9. Yummy Spiders
A myth began to creep around the Internet that the average person swallows a few spiders in their lifetime. This is actually not true...Mainly because most people don’t sleep with their mouth open.
8. “Killer” Bees
People are allergic to bees, and it can be deadly for them if they get stung. Even if they’re not allergic, a lot of people run away from bees. The reality is that only 1 out of every 63,225 bee stings leads to fatal consequences, typically in individuals who have allergies. There is a special breed of “killer” bees that caused mass panic and even inspired some horror movies. In reality, “killer bees” have less venom than regular bees. The one thing that makes them dangerous is when they swarm together in defense of their hive.
7. Dry Your Hair!
There is a common belief that if you leave the house with wet or damp hair when it is cold outside, you will get very sick. The idea comes from the fact that being cold can lower the body’s immune system. Having a wet head will lower your body temperature, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll automatically get sick.
6. Elevators Aren’t That Scary
Elevators are a subject used in more than one horror movie. For anyone who is claustrophobic, the fear of an elevator malfunctioning, leaving you trapped inside is a terrifying thing. When the mind goes to worst-case-scenario, the idea of an elevator plummeting multiple stories is horrifying as well. You may find it comforting to know that in the United States, there are only 27 elevator-related deaths each year. The majority of these deaths were elevator maintenance workers. Deaths involving regular people were trapped in an elevator. They attempted to escape instead of waiting for the fire department to arrive, which unfortunately led to their demise.
5. Take That, Elevators!
Escalators are obviously safer than elevators, because if they break down, they just become stairs. However, a lot of people have an irrational fear that makes them nervous to get on an escalator. If you're one of these individuals, you'll be pleased to know that no one has lost their life due to an escalator accident. The vast majority of escalator injuries happened to children under 5 years old. In instances where adults got hurt, most of them were either shoved by someone or their own balance and coordination were impaired.
4. Final Destination: Attack of the Fans
This may sound silly, but having your head chopped off by a ceiling fan is a very real fear for some people. On an episode of Mythbusters, they tested if it’s possible for this to happen. The conclusion is that you might sustain a concussion, but your life isn't at risk. There have not been any fan-related decapitations on record.
A lot of people are afraid of dogs. Just about everyone knows someone who has been bitten by a dog at some point in their life. According to the Center of Disease Control, dogs will bite 4.5 million in the US every year. While this sounds like a huge number, you need to keep in mind that there are 78 million dogs in the US. In 2016, only 41 people lost their lives due to dog attacks. So you have a better chance of dying from a bee or wasp sting.
2. A Long Way to Fall
Every airplane has an emergency exit door.
In movies, when a door opens, it sucks the air out of the plane and causes chaos. However, the air pressure would make it impossible for anyone to actually open the door in the first place.
I'm starting to suspect that not all the action in your typical blockbuster is 100% based in reality...
1. You Should Definitely Vaccinate Your Kids
In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a study that linked vaccinations to autism. This caused many parents to panic, and they chose not to vaccinate their children. He was making a lot of money taking advantage of families who had children with autism by charging them for consulting fees. The medical journal who originally published Wakefield’s work retracted the study, saying that it was “utterly false.” He also had his medical license revoked because of his false claims about the risks of vaccination. What you should be afraid of, however, is unvaccinated kids. Many illnesses that had once been erased from modern society began to creep back into schools, because of parents who refused to vaccinate their children.