Pure animal phobia is more specific than other specific phobias: epidemiological evidence from the Zurich Study, the ZInEP and the PsyCoLaus

  • Vladeta Ajdacic-GrossEmail author
  • Stephanie Rodgers
  • Mario Müller
  • Michael P. Hengartner
  • Aleksandra Aleksandrowicz
  • Wolfram Kawohl
  • Karsten Heekeren
  • Wulf Rössler
  • Jules Angst
  • Enrique Castelao
  • Caroline Vandeleur
  • Martin Preisig
Original Paper


Interest in subtypes of mental disorders is growing in parallel with continuing research progress in psychiatry. The aim of this study was to examine pure animal phobia in contrast to other specific phobias and a mixed subtype. Data from three representative Swiss community samples were analysed: PsyCoLaus (n = 3720), the ZInEP Epidemiology Survey (n = 1500) and the Zurich Study (n = 591). Pure animal phobia and mixed animal/other specific phobias consistently displayed a low age at onset of first symptoms (8–12 years) and clear preponderance of females (OR > 3). Meanwhile, other specific phobias started up to 10 years later and displayed almost a balanced sex ratio. Pure animal phobia showed no associations with any included risk factors and comorbid disorders, in contrast to numerous associations found in the mixed subtype and in other specific phobias. Across the whole range of epidemiological parameters examined in three different samples, pure animal phobia seems to represent a different entity compared to other specific phobias. The etiopathogenetic mechanisms and risk factors associated with pure animal phobias appear less clear than ever.


Specific phobia Animal phobia Epidemiology Risk factors Comorbidity Methodology 



The Zurich Study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (most recent Grant Number 32-50881.97). ZInEP was supported by a private donation. The donor had no further role in the experimental design, the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, the writing of this report or the decision to submit this paper for publication. The ZInEP Epidemiology Survey, in particular research in the Centre for Neuro- and Sociophysiology, was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant #3247B0-122071). The PsyCoLaus study was supported by research grants from GlaxoSmithKline, the Faculty of Biology and Medicine of Lausanne, and the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grants 3200B0-105993, 3200B0-118308, 33CSCO-122661, 33CS30-139468 and 33CS30-148401).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vladeta Ajdacic-Gross
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Stephanie Rodgers
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mario Müller
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael P. Hengartner
    • 2
    • 3
  • Aleksandra Aleksandrowicz
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wolfram Kawohl
    • 1
    • 2
  • Karsten Heekeren
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wulf Rössler
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
  • Jules Angst
    • 1
  • Enrique Castelao
    • 6
  • Caroline Vandeleur
    • 6
  • Martin Preisig
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Psychiatric HospitalUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.ZInEP, The Zurich Program for Sustainable Development of Mental Health ServicesUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Applied PsychologyZurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW)ZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Collegium Helveticum, University of Zurich and Swiss Federal Institute of TechnologyZurichSwitzerland
  5. 5.Laboratory of Neuroscience (LIM27), Institute of PsychiatryUniversity of Sao PauloSao PauloBrazil
  6. 6.Department of PsychiatryCHUVLausanneSwitzerland

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