· More than half of people still have a superstition
· Parents are passing their superstitions on to children – but trends are changing with time
· The biggest factor in which superstitions people have is where they live
· Men are more likely to rely on lucky clothing than women, though both genders favour lucky underwear
In a time where a slab of pocket-sized plastic can provide the answers to any question about the
world, it seems unlikely that traditional superstitions would endure. However, they have not disappeared, surviving through the same oral traditions that have kept them alive throughout history.
New research by Ladbrokes Games into superstitions held by people who play online games aimed to find out what people did to bring them good luck, or avoid bad luck, when they played. Carried out on behalf of the betting expert by TLF, the survey found that over half of people in the UK and Ireland (54%) still believe in at least one superstition, mostly inheriting them from their parents. It is also rare for someone to just have one; people believe in an average of five, if they are advocates in the first place.
The UK’s top ten superstitions are:
2. If you walk under a ladder you will have bad luck 51.6%
3. Opening an umbrella in the house is bad luck 49.6%
4. Breaking a mirror will bring you seven years of bad luck 46.3%
5. Friday the thirteenth is an unlucky day 43.6%
6. To find a four-leaf clover is to find good luck 39.4%
7. The number 13 is unlucky 34.1%
8. Horseshoes are lucky 32.7%
9. A groom seeing the bride's dress before the wedding day is bad luck 32.4%
10. Crossing your fingers helps to avoid bad luck 32.4%
Parents vs. children
Parents are usually to blame for passing on superstitions. 46% of people surveyed reported that their parents had instilled their superstitions in them, compared to 14% receiving them from grandparents and 26% subconsciously picking up superstitions from ‘tradition’. While as many as 71% of over-65s still have superstitions, the numbers fall to 52% of those aged between 35 and 44.
Millennials are about 10% less likely to believe in superstitions than their parents; 40% of those under 34 are superstitious, with a preference for lucky clothing (45% of 18 to 24 year olds, much higher than any other age group) over traditional dos and don’ts. Research suggests parents pass along a tendency to be superstitious rather than actual superstitions, which are changing over time.
Out with the old?
Superstitions that have remained strongest are simple and timeless – 54% believe in touching wood for good luck, whereas 52% believe in receiving bad luck for walking under ladders. Half of all people avoid opening umbrellas indoors for the same reason.
Superstitions that may be considered a little more dated today are on the way out – only 13% would still carry a rabbit’s foot and just 32% believe a groom seeing the bride’s dress before the wedding is bad luck. Only 8% of people still believe that the Irish bring good luck, but this superstition oddly endures the most in Ireland – 19% in Northern Ireland and 14% in the Republic of Ireland believe their very presence is all the luck they need.
Levels of superstition change in different areas of the British Isles. The least superstitious city is Dublin; only 39% of residents hold even one superstition. Southampton, on the other hand, is the most superstitious thanks to 69% of its residents' beliefs.
Superstitions vary by region more than any other factor. Capital cities, for example, inspire reliance on a lucky item of clothing; 30% of Belfast residents have one – more than anywhere else – as well as 27% in Edinburgh and London. The South West of England is the most superstitious area, whereas Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are the least.
However, the few superstitions that the Republic of Ireland have stuck with are fairly unique to them – black cats, rabbits' feet and a lock of loved one’s hair are much more common in the ROI than anywhere else.
The survey found the top ten cities in the UK and Ireland by the percentage of residents who believe in at least one superstition:
1. Southampton (69.2%)
2. Bristol (68.9%)
3. Leeds (68.5%)
4. Nottingham (68.4%)
5. Cardiff (65%)
The five least superstitious cities were also identified:
1. Dublin (39%)
2. Birmingham (50%)
3. Edinburgh (51%)
4. London (52%)
5. Belfast (54%)
Women are much more superstitious than men – 59% compared to 47%. The main superstition that splits the genders is seeing the wedding dress; 41% of women believe it is bad luck compared to 19% of men. However, men are not immune to clothing-based superstitions; one in five people own a lucky item of clothing, but that increases to 29% for men alone and falls to 15% for women. Regardless of gender, though, it’s most likely to be underwear that brings good fortune.
Still a numbers game
Men are also more likely to believe number-based superstitions than women – 47% of men believe Friday the 13th is unlucky compared to 42% of women and 34% of men believe that the number seven is lucky (only 27% of women agreed). Seven is still the UK and Ireland’s luckiest number, with one in five making it their go-to choice for games and lotteries.
Commenting on the findings, Alex Donohue at Ladbrokes, said: “The figures show that we’re still a superstitious bunch in the UK and Ireland, and our beliefs are definitely changing with the times. Even as we leave old methods behind, we’re finding new ways to improve our luck.”