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Chronic Diseases


Europeans seem to be generally aware that measures such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can have preventive benefits for their health.

Aside from immediate benefits like better sleep, energy and overall well-being, everyday preventive efforts might also reduce the risk of contracting serious diseases in the future – but which ones are Europeans most afraid of? And what paradox is revealed in this context?

Woman wearing a blue headscarf and looking into the distance.

Cancer most feared disease in Europe


The most feared health condition among Europeans is cancer. 43 percent rank it first, and 75 percent in the top three diseases they are most afraid of. Fear of cancer is particularly high in Spain (50), Kazakhstan, Italy and the Czech Republic (48 each).

Interestingly, the fear of cancer decreases with age: between 18 and 34 years, 48 percent cite cancer as their most feared disease, compared to 46 percent between 35 and 54 years, and 37 percent for those over 55. Women (47) are significantly more worried about cancer than men (39).


Looking at attendance rates for cancer screenings, a disconnect between fear and action – namely, attending recommended screenings for cancer regularly – is revealed, and might be worth addressing.

Very moderate worry about late-onset chronic diseases

Fewer than one in five Europeans (18) cite heart attacks as their top fear, despite the fact that they are responsible for one in six deaths worldwide.* Men (21) tend to worry more about heart attacks than women (15). Strokes, which 15 percent fear the most, follow in third place.

Conditions that tend to be associated with an older age of onset, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, rank much lower on the fear scale, even though symptoms can begin at almost any age. In Spain (16), France (14) and Italy (13), people are most afraid of Alzheimer’s compared to the European average (9).

8 in 10 Europeans would consider genetic testing to predict future health issues

For a variety of reasons, it seems that a significant proportion of Europeans need a lot of convincing to adopt well-established means of detecting disease – could they be more open to more new-age procedures?

Genetics can play a crucial role in determining a person's predisposition to certain types of disease. Genetic testing can predict an individual's risk of certain diseases years before they might develop.

At 81 percent, the vast majority of Europeans could imagine taking such a test, while 14 percent would be uncomfortable with the idea of having their genes tested. The main argument of those opposing such tests is preferring to remain in the dark about potential health risks or diseases they might face in the future (12).

This reasoning is particularly strong in Switzerland and the Netherlands (21), which are the countries least likely to consider genetic testing overall (70 and 72 respectively). On the other hand, Portugal (94), Poland (89), Romania and Spain (87 each) are very open to genetic testing as a means of detecting diseases such as cancer, possibly long before they manifest themselves.