Friday, February 15, 2013

Fearing the Reaper

You are going to die. Eventually. You do not know how yet. But you will. 

Life is pleasant and dying is it's end. Most people fear death or least want to put it off as long as possible.  The reaper, in the end, comes for each and every one of us. 

Human nature alarms us about some causes of death more than others. 

We are more apt to fear flying in airplanes more than car accidents. Yet car accidents are far more likely to kill us. 

% Chance you will die of particular cause
(click graphic to expand)
We fear gun violence more than falling, yet falling is twice as prone to do us in.

The National Safety Council has estimated your chances of dying from various causes based on death certificates and the census data. 

The results should inform us on what we really need to worry about.

There is a higher chance you will die from suicide than from a gun.  Yet how many of us have guns to protect ourselves from some perceived potential threat?

More detail on the smaller risks
(click graphic to expand)
The odds are low you will ever need a gun for self defense.  Do you ever think about how to protect your loved ones from suicide?

We sit transfixed to our televisions watching weather disasters, yet walking across the street has a better chance of killing us.

Clearly our bodies break down from disease more often than accident or violence. Eating too much, smoking, and excessive salt take their toll on us. Natural disaster, fire and drowning may scare us, but are relatively not a threat.

Media shows us fiery plane crashes, crazy people shooting up schools, cataclysmic storms and we watch these dramatic events unfold with terror. Yet their actual threat to us is very, very small. The images and sounds we hear skew our opinions and voting patterns out of proportion to the reality of the threats.

As mature adults, we should have a more accurate view of the threats to our persons and those we love. What we fear should be what is apt to kill us. These real threats deserve our attention.

Here are some odds by cause of death to consider:

Cause of Death
(1 in X)
Heart Disease
Auto accident
Death Penalty

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  1. I agree with all the points you raise. But I don't believe the Media is responsible for our fear of uncommon deaths. The Media tells us what we want to hear so their product will sell. And unfortunately, humans seem to be quite sadistic. We relish hearing about horrific accidents that kill many people. Of course, we aren't "happy" to hear about killings, but sub-consciously there does appear to be a craving for news of destruction. Perhaps it is an evolutionary survival mechanism that we strive to learn about possible dangers as it's clear that we also like to read about deaths that are particularly unusual.

    Talking of evolution as putting us in a state of mind, I do, however, believe that evolution's next course for intelligent animals like ourselves is rationality. I think we are in the process of becoming reasoning creatures who will perhaps move on from these behavioural instincts.

    It also may be worth noting that suicide and fire-arms are probably the highest causes of death to the healthy human. Cancer and heart disease obviously affect the elderly more than the young and arguably death by serious injury is predominantly also made up of the elderly having nasty falls etc. For the healthy young, I expect the figures for suicides and guns to be nearer the top even if it is not quite.

  2. I didn't see the odds of dying from a broken heart or loneliness? Don't people really fear dying alone?