The Only Things We Have to Fear are Statistics

A person’s odds of dying from an accidental opioid overdose are greater than dying in a motor vehicle crash.

Years ago, I posted a few items about what I called “fear junkies” — the apparent addiction to panic that so many people have — and that gets stoked by weather and news purveyors.

After going through a few politically-motivated panic attacks since then, I understand the fear people have. However, I’ve not given up my belief that, statistically, Americans often misdirect our fear. We obsess over things which are statically remote while growing numb to things (and certain politicians) that we should actually panic over.

For example, according to a new study by the National Safety Council’,” (via: NYTimes.com) a person’s odds of dying from an accidental opioid overdose are greater than dying in a motor vehicle crash. Here’s a quote from the study’s findings.

Fear is natural and healthy. It can help us respond to danger more quickly or avoid a dangerous situation altogether. It can also cause us to worry about the wrong things, especially when it comes to estimating our level of risk. If we overestimate our risk in one area, it can lead to anxiety and interfere with carrying out our normal daily routine. Ironically, it also leads us to underestimate real risks that can injure or kill us. It can be difficult to accurately assess the biggest risks we face. Plane crashes, being struck by lightning or being attacked by a dog are common fears, but what about falls, the danger inside of a bottle of pills, or your drive to work? Knowing the odds is the first step in beating them.

A chart (below) from the National Safety Councils website provides a listing of lifetime odds of death for selected causes. I found it fascinating, but not surprising, that many things deserving more fear are accepted as normal while things that rarely happen get most of the airtime of local news each night.

Heart disease and cancer and lower respiratory disease (all with connections to smoking) are the top causes of deaths. (Death from riding a bicycle is 1 in 1,747.)

The one thing for certain, no matter how precisely we understand the statistics of death, there is only one thing we can be 100% sure of about death: we’re all going to experience it one day…unless we travel on passenger trains.

 

Lifetime odds of death for selected causes, United States, 2017
Cause of DeathOdds of Dying
Heart Disease1 in 6
Cancer1 in 7
Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease1 in 27
Suicide1 in 88
Opioid overdose1 in 96
Motor Vehicle Crash1 in 103
Fall1 in 114
Gun Assault1 in 285
Pedestrian Incident1 in 556
Motorcyclist1 in 858
Drowning1 in 1,117
Fire or Smoke1 in 1,474
Choking on Food1 in 2,696
Bicyclist1 in 4,047
Accidental Gun Discharge1 in 8,527
Sunstroke1 in 8,912
Electrocution, Radiation, Extreme Temperatures and Pressure1 in 15,638
Sharp objects1 in 28,000
Cataclysmic Storm1 in 31,394
Hot surfaces and substances1 in 46,045
Hornet, wasp and bee stings1 in 46,562
Dog attack1 in 115,111
Passenger on an airplane1 in 188,364
Lightning1 in 218,106
Railway passenger1 in 243,765

See data details