New York City-based insurer Travelers Cos. Inc. recentlyannounced the results of its “Risk Index,” an annual survey that examineswhat keeps most U.S. business leaders and consumers up atnight.

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Both groups share concerns about cyber threats, the demands of achanging workforce, and severe weather, although results are mixedon the question of whether the world is becoming a riskierplace.

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What business leaders said

When asked about whether their world is getting riskier, fewerU.S. business leaders than in 2015 — 41 percent vs. 44 percent —say yes. Large businesses seeing the world as more risky dropped to44 percent from 52 percent, with midsize businesses dropping to 43percent from 47 percent, and small businesses remaining at 36percent.

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U.S. business leaders worry more about factors that coulddisrupt their business operations, including supply chaininterruptions, worker injury and severe, damaging weather thatcould result in significant business interruption. As for emergingrisks, business leaders say that workforce and technology changesare things that trouble them the most, while also citing empoweredconsumers, e-business and energy issues as new challenges.

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The top concerns are consistent with prior years' results, thesurvey found, with small-business owners worrying less about thetop risks.

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What consumers said

A majority of U.S. consumers — 56 percent — said they believethat their world is getting riskier. More than 90 percent also ratedistracted driving as a topic of some concern. This year, thesurvey added new survey questions about emerging risks, whichshowed that U.S. consumers are also concerned about global andpolitical conflict, terrorism and social unrest.

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The survey found that, among consumers, risk perception varieswith age. U.S. consumers age 40 and older feel higher levels ofrisk compared with U.S. consumers age 18 to 39. Those age 55 to 69believe the world is riskier, with 61 percent feeling this way,compared with 57 percent of 40- to 54-year-olds and 52 percent of18- to 39-year-olds.

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Here is a look at six major areas of concern that U.S. consumersand business leaders share:

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Cyber risks

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(Photo: iStock)

1. Cyber risks

The survey found that consumers and business leaders areconcerned about technology-related risks. Among all businesses, 54percent worry some or a great deal about cyber risks. Of consumers,51 percent worry some or a great deal about this threat.

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Among consumers, cyber risks concern women more than men. Theleading concern in this area for 62 percent is the threat that bankor financial accounts will be hacked. More women — 68 percent — areconcerned than men at 56 percent.

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In addition, among U.S. consumers, worry about cyber risksincreases with age. For 18- to 39-year-olds, 47 percent areconcerned, compared with 56 percent of those age 55 to 69.

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Related: Getting cyber insurance is a complex process,experts warn

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Distracted driving

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(Photo: iStock)

2. Driving issues

Consumers and business leaders share concerns about distracteddriving, according to the survey. Since the survey began in 2013,the trend continues to rise, with more than 9 in 10 consumersrating distracted driving as at least somewhat of a concern. It's amajor issue for more women (61 percent) than men (55), and more sofor 64 percent of those over 55 vs. 42 percent of those under40.

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But consumers are more worried about other drivers causing anaccident by using a mobile device behind the wheel (76 percent)than they are about their own distracted driving (33 percent). Atleast some consumers (48 percent) worry to some extent aboutstriking a pedestrian who is distracted while using a mobiledevice.

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Of all businesses, 65 percent have employees who use a personalvehicle for business purposes, which exposes the business to thepotential for legal liability and distracted driving risks.

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Related: 10 people die every day during the summer from acrash involving a teen driver

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Changing workforce

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(Photo: iStock)

3. A changing workforce

Businesses and consumers share concerns about the changingworkforce, which is the result of demographic changes,technological advances and the global economy.

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Of all businesses surveyed, 49 percent agreed that a changingworkface is the most worrisome trend they face. In addition, 50percent indicated that they worry some or a great deal about beingable to attract and retain talent and skilled staff. The ability toattract and hire qualified workers to replace baby boomers as theyretire concerns 39 percent, and the cost of training new workersconcerns 37 percent. Close to one-third of business leaders — 29percent — worry about the implications of millennials entering theworkforce.

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U.S. consumers are concerned about trends in jobs movingoverseas and changing job requirements. Keeping pace with newworkforce requirements worries 27 percent. The concerns vary by ageand are highest among those age 18 to 39 (32 percent) and lowestamong those age 55 to 69 (19 percent).

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Related: Employers must be prepared for special issues thatface aging workers

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Financial concerns

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(Photo: iStock)

4. Financial concerns

Both consumers and business leaders note financial concerns asleading worries. A large majority of consumers (70 percent) worrysome or a great deal about financial concerns, frequently citingworry about unemployment and job security, financial hardship andthe economy.

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Of those with household incomes below $90,000 per year, 74percent worry some or a great deal compared with 61 percent forthose with household incomes above $90,000.

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Businesses overall worry most about medical cost inflation,according to 59 percent of survey respondents, but it's of greatestconcern to large businesses with more than 1,000 employees (52percent). This was followed by increasing employee benefit costsfor 56 percent overall, and 49 percent of large businesses.

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Related: 8 financial mistakes couples make that could derailretirement

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Approaching storm

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(Photo: iStock)

5. Changing weather risks

Risks associated with climate volatility and sever weatherremain a concern for both businesses and consumers, with manysaying they believe sever weather is occurring often and becomingmore disruptive. Of all companies, 40 percent said that theirgreatest weather-related concern is business interruption.

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Consumers share business leaders' concerns, with 61 percentbelieving that severe weather is becoming more frequent, which is adecline from 67 percent in 2015. Among consumers, 39 percentbelieve that damage to their property, homes or automobiles is morelikely.

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Those in the Northeast expect a greater likelihood of damagefrom weather (46 percent), while Westerners (29 percent) are theleast likely to report higher risk of damage, according to thesurvey.

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Related: 5 types of land development vulnerable to naturaldisasters

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Risk mitigation

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(Photo: iStock)

6. Risk mitigation

Both consumers and business leaders take some measures tomitigate their exposure to risk.

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According to the survey, more than half of U.S. consumers saidthey have a plan for what to do before and after a severe weatherevent. By area, consumers in the South and Tornado Alley are bestprepared, as are those in small towns and rural areas.

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In terms of mitigating risk generally, the most common riskprevention measure that U.S. consumers take is installing carbonmonoxide and smoke detectors. Other common measures, the surveyfound, include annual car safety checks (71 percent) and keepingfood, water and flashlights on hand for severe weather events (59percent). Only 50 percent have an evacuation plan in the event ofsevere weather or a natural disaster.

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U.S. business leaders said they're least prepared to deal withthe top three that cause them the most concern:

  • 59 percent worry a great deal about medical cost inflation, yet31 percent feel unprepared to manage the risk.
  • 56 percent worry about rising benefit costs, but 21 percentfeel unprepared.
  • 54 percent worry about cyber risks, with 25 percent feelingunprepared.

“Our findings reveal common risks that business leaders andconsumers may not be fully prepared to manage,” said Patrick Gee,senior vice president of claims at Travelers. “The good news isthere are steps they can take to help mitigate those risks andprotect their families, finances, homes and businesses.”

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Related: What keeps Americans up at night? TravelersConsumer Risk Index

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