Sensational Deaths Are Not Likely to Happen

Many of us are afraid of the wrong things. When we worry about being killed, what frequently comes to mind is a terrorist attack, natural disaster, homicide, an airline crash–or someone’s car running a traffic light. But a detailed study of what people really die from shows that these “sensational ways” are far less likely to occur compared to more mundane events like coronary heart disease, cancer or a serious respiratory disease such as pneumonia.

In reality, if you look at the accompanying chart, natural disasters account for approximately one hundredth of one percent of all fatalities, and terrorism is not much more of a factor, accounting for six hundredths of 1 percent of global deaths. Airline crashes are too rare to be included in the graph, but would rank somewhere near the very bottom.

The chart suggests that most of us succumb to various diseases — of the heart, lungs, diabetes, cancer, and dementia. Road accidents, account for just 3.03% of deaths, is the leading accidental cause of death, followed (among non-diseases-related causes of death) by suicide (1.49%) and homicides (0.71%). Drug and alcohol disorders are further down the list. These are not trivial numbers, but they are also definitely not among the greatest risks to our life span.

From a practical perspective, what does this mean? Maybe our attention ought to be turned away from the dread of terrorism and homicide to the more practical, and potentially beneficial (from a longevity standpoint), of taking care of our health with diet, exercise and also a little less worrying about the scary stuff in the information.