Engaging men in health

March 2009


Fear of needles

Nature and prevalence in general practice

Volume 38, No.3, March 2009 Pages 172-176

Simone Wright

Michael Yelland

Kathy Heathcote

Shu-Kay Ng

Garfield Wright


The extent to which a fear of needles influences health decisions remains largely unexplored. This study investigated the prevalence of fear of needles in a southeast Queensland community, described associated symptoms, and highlighted health care avoidance tendencies of affected individuals.


One hundred and seventy-seven participants attending an outer urban general practice responded to a questionnaire on fear of needles, symptoms associated with needles and its influence on their use of medical care.


Twenty-two percent of participants reported a fear of needles. Affected participants were more likely than participants with no fear to report vasovagal symptoms, have had a previous traumatic needle experience (46.2 vs. 16.4%, p<0.001) and avoid medical treatment involving needles (20.5 vs. 2.3%, p<0.001).


Fear of needles is common and is associated with health care avoidance. Health professionals could better identify and manage patients who have a fear of needles by recognising associated vasovagal symptoms and past traumatic experiences.

Injections play a central role in medical care with an estimated 12 billion injections and 100 million childhood vaccinations given worldwide annually.1 As general practice patients are commonly required to tolerate needles, a fear of needles may be a barrier to accessing good medical care. There is some anecdotal evidence of the fear of needles resulting in diabetics avoiding their insulin injections, patients forgoing vaccinations, the postponement of urgent surgery, and the avoidance of medical help altogether.2–5 It is especially important for general practitioners to be aware of their pregnant patients with a fear of needles, as this can lead to suboptimal care, with routine blood tests, injections and pain management (during childbirth) all involving needles.2,6

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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