The Six Most Feared but Least Likely Causes of Death
Deepak Chopra, M.D., a pioneer of alternative medicine, once
said that everything we fear has already happened. In other
words, there's no need to fear most of what we spending time
Still, many Americans have intense fears of death by certain
causes that are actually very unlikely to occur. On the contrary,
the most likely causes of death are rarely sources of fear
for most of us.
What follows is a list of some of those common, yet unfounded,
causes of death that are most feared ... yet least likely
Then, at the end of the article take a look at the real most
common causes of death, and see if your fears are justified.
Airplane crashes: Some
30 million Americans describe themselves as "anxious"
flyers. What makes them anxious is the fear of dying in
a plane crash. What's the actual risk of being involved in
a fatal airline accident? According to Arnold Barnett, a statistical
expert in the field of aviation safety, it's once every
19,000 years--and that is only provided the person flew
on an airplane once a day for 19,000 years!
Being killed by a shark is a common fear, but one that's
totally unfounded: Your odds of being attacked by a
shark are just one in 11.5 million.
Shark attacks: Do you refuse to go near the movie
Jaws for fear that you'll never go back in the water? You're
not alone, as many
Americans fear getting killed by a shark.
According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF),
though, only 1,909 confirmed shark attacks have occurred around
the world--between 1580 and 2003! Of these, 737 happened in
the United States, and 38 people died as a result. That said,
what are your real odds of being attacked by a shark? One
in 11.5 million, says the ISAF. Being killed by a shark? Zero
in 264.1 million.
Being murdered: According to the World Health Organization
(WHO), one person is murdered about every 60 seconds worldwide,
and in 2000, an estimated 520,000 people were murdered in
the world. Although this sounds like a lot, let us put things
into perspective: In 2000, over 6 million people died of cancer.
Falling to death: In 2001, more than 11,600 people
aged 65 and older died from fall-related injuries, representing
a very real concern. Children are also at risk of falling
if they're not being properly supervised. But the type of
fall we're talking about here is the kind that occurs from
a height and to adults. While falling from a height is a leading
cause of work-related death among construction workers, it
kills only an estimated 80 people each year. And, the risk
to the general population, who are exposed to heights less
often, is likely to be lower than that.
Terrorist attack: With the recent London bombings
and September 11th not too far behind, death by terrorist
attack is fresh in many people's minds. A poll in Conde Nast
Traveler in February 2003 found that one-third of respondents
feared a terrorist attack. What are your real odds of dying
this way? Historically speaking, it's a one in 9.3 million
chance--which is a slightly greater risk than you have of
dying in an avalanche.
Natural disaster: Earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes,
floods, storms, heat, cold ... all of these are perceived
as a threat looming overhead at any time. Your real lifetime
odds of dying from a natural force like those listed above?
One in 3,357, according to the science and technology Web
site LiveScience.com. You're much more likely to be killed
by a fire or by committing suicide.
Actual Leading Causes of Death
An unhealthy diet is actually a leading cause of death
in the United States.
Biggest fears aside, the Journal of the American Medical
Association published a study that uncovered the actual leading
causes of death in the United States (in 2000). Overwhelmingly,
these causes stem from our own, modifiable behaviors.
Tobacco (435,000 deaths, 18.1 percent of total U.S. deaths)
Poor diet and physical inactivity (400,000 deaths, 16.6 percent)
Alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths, 3.5 percent)
Microbial agents (75,000)
Toxic agents (55,000)
Motor vehicle crashes (43,000)
Incidents involving firearms (29,000)
Sexual behaviors (20,000)
- Illicit use of drugs (17,000)
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are More Boys than Girls Being Born?
News: A Murder a Minute
You Heading for a Fall?
Francisco Chronicle: Among Travel Risks, Death by Terrorist
Attack is Remote
of the American Medical Association 2004;291:1238-1245