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 Death Odds of Dying
Heart Disease 1 in 6
Cancer 1 in 7
Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease 1 in 27
Suicide 1 in 88
Opioid overdose 1 in 96
Motor Vehicle Crash 1 in 103
Fall 1 in 114
Gun Assault 1 in 285
Pedestrian Incident 1 in 556
Motorcyclist 1 in 858
Drowning 1 in 1,117
Fire or Smoke 1 in 1,474
Choking on Food 1 in 2,696
Bicyclist 1 in 4,047
Accidental Gun Discharge 1 in 8,527
Sunstroke 1 in 8,912
Electrocution, Radiation, Extreme Temperatures and Pressure 1 in 15,638
Sharp objects 1 in 28,000
Cataclysmic Storm 1 in 31,394
Hot surfaces and substances 1 in 46,045
Hornet, wasp and bee stings 1 in 46,562
Dog attack 1 in 115,111
Passenger on an airplane 1 in 188,364
Lightning 1 in 218,106
Railway passenger 1 in 243,765

See data details