© Reuters/Argely Salazar
A woman raises her arms to receive energy from the sun at the Mayan pyramid El Castillo (The Castle), in Chichen Itza, in the southern state of Yucatan, Mexico March 21, 2009.
Nearly 15 percent of people worldwide believe the world will end during their lifetime and 10 percent think the Mayan calendar could signify it will happen in 2012, according to a new poll.
The end of the Mayan calendar, which spans about 5,125 years, on December 21, 2012 has sparked interpretations and suggestions that it marks the end of the world.
"Whether they think it will come to an end through the hands of God, or a natural disaster or a political event, whatever the reason, one in seven thinks the end of the world is coming," said Keren Gottfried, research manager at Ipsos Global Public Affairs which conducted the poll for Reuters.
"Perhaps it is because of the media attention coming from one interpretation of the Mayan prophecy that states the world 'ends' in our calendar year 2012," Gottfried said, adding that some Mayan scholars have disputed the interpretation.
Responses to the international poll of 16,262 people in more than 20 countries varied widely with only six percent of French residents believing in an impending Armageddon in their lifetime, compared to 22 percent in Turkey and the United States and slightly less in South Africa and Argentina
But only seven percent in Belgium and eight percent in Great Britain feared an end to the world during their lives.
About one in 10 people globally also said they were experiencing fear or anxiety about the impending end of the world in 2012. The greatest numbers were in Russia
and Poland, the fewest in Great Britain.
Gottfried also said that people with lower education or household income levels, as well as those under 35 years old, were more likely to believe in an apocalypse during their lifetime or in 2012, or have anxiety over the prospect.
"Perhaps those who are older have lived long enough to not be as concerned with what happens to their future," she explained.
Ipsos questioned people in China, Turkey, Russia, Mexico, South Korea, Japan, the United States, Argentina, Hungary, Poland, Sweden, France, Spain, Belgium, Canada, Australia
, Italy, South Africa, Great Britain, Indonesia, Germany.
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Patricia Reaney)