Who’s Afraid of Needles?

Do you hate giving blood, getting an IV, or doing really any medical procedure that involves a needle? You’re not alone.

Recently, a pair of researchers conducted a meta-analysis of previously published studies on the fear of needles. One of their goals was to come up with an estimate of how many people have a fear of needles, and whether the fear is more prevalent in some demographic groups.

Overall, they found that the fear of needles is quite common. Among children, it’s actually more common to be afraid of needles than not. In adolescents, the rate appears to be between 20 and 50 percent. And for young adults, the estimates provided by published studies range from 20 to 30 percent.

The meta-analysis found that women were more likely than men to report experiencing a fear of needles, and the fear of needles tended to decline with age. However, those with a fear of needles were still well represented in all demographic groups.

Needle-less to say, this fear can make some people hesitant to undergo simple and beneficial medical procedures like vaccinations. So the researchers also tallied how frequently people avoided flu shots specifically because of a fear of needles.

In the published studies, 16 percent of adult patients reported passing on flu vaccines for this reason. Perhaps surprisingly, the rate was higher among hospital employees, 27 percent of whom didn’t get vaccinated for influenza because of a fear of needles.

Among healthcare workers specifically, though, the rate was lower, at 8 percent. Meanwhile, those working at facilities that provided long-term care reported avoiding flu shots because of a fear of needles at a rate of 18 percent.

These estimates are based on 35 studies, so it’s hard to say exactly how representative they are of the general population. However, they do highlight a clear point – a very sharp point, I might add. Specifically, fear of needles is common for people in every age group, including people who work at hospitals. You probably already suspected that a fear of needles wasn’t rare, but now you’ve got some numbers to inject into the discussion.