In general, does a person's anxiety or "fear of flying" have an effect on his likelihood of experiencing motion sickness during flight?

I am wondering if providing some ground education to first-time flyers would have a positive impact on their experience by reducing anxiety levels and, therefore, the chances of needing to use regurgitation collection devices.

Assume all other factors such as specific G-forces and accelerations experienced, temperatures, meals eaten, etc. are controlled or disregarded.

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    $\begingroup$ Related $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    May 15, 2016 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ You are confusing correlation and causation. A correlation means that two things have a linear statistical relationship, not that one leads to another. Causation is anxiety leads to motion sickness, correlation could mean either leads to another. Maybe people are anxious because they develop motion sickness, not the other way around. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    May 16, 2016 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD ::Pssst:: click the edit button ;) $\endgroup$ May 16, 2016 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm... Assuming that education would help seems also to assume that the fear is usually a rational fear rather than an irrational one. I'm not sure that this is a valid assumption. Most people I've known who had a fear of flying really had more a fear of enclosed spaces or heights (or both.) $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    May 16, 2016 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ If anyone here is pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology, this sounds like an interesting idea for a thesis. $\endgroup$
    – kevin
    May 17, 2016 at 13:00

1 Answer 1


It's different for everyone, but I'd expect stress/anxiety to be a contributing factor for many, which is an ultimately self-defeating cycle; if you "know" you're going to get sick, you'll be anxious about that, and that'll make you sick.

The trigger for me is inadequate ventilation. I'm fortunate enough to rarely get motion sickness, but when it does happen it's usually because I'm in a hot, still cabin without a good source of fresh air.

  • $\begingroup$ (I'm not an expert...) FYI, the phobia of being sick is emetophobia. Not related, FAA analyzed studies on motion sickness in 1976. For non physical causes (like vestibular disorders) the idea commonly proposed is that phobias (which are very common), by creating anxiety which releases hormones like adrenalin or cortisol, are often at the origin of motion sickness, and a benign vestibular disorder can propel this anxiety to higher levels. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    May 17, 2016 at 18:56

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