pink_dice.gifA neighbor of mine died last Friday from a heart attack. When I asked his wife if they’d discussed his burial wishes she said no, they felt if they never discussed it, it wouldn’t happen. This is despite the fact he had a medical history of heart disease. Of course she knew death happens whether you discuss it or not, but I was shocked they had never discussed it in their 48 years of marriage. Luckily her children will help her muddle through the details of the coming months. Not everyone chooses to prepare for death regardless of the odds. Some people just don’t feel it’s necessary, after all, they won’t be around and people do have a way of adapting. But I thought bringing up the topic of odds might be useful for perspective. Here is an excerpt from a 2005 article titled conveniently, The Odds of Dying. I’m sure the insurance industry uses figures similar to these as well. It’s also interesting to note that although we aren’t all high rolling gamblers, we are often more afraid of dying from remote causes rather than the more mundane and obvious. Just another method of denial perhaps.

(UPDATE: Just spotted this PSA from the American Lung Association titled “Odds” as a warning against starting smoking. They contrast the chance of getting lung cancer with getting hit by a car–a visually dramatic comparison of 1 in 7 compared to 1 in 100).

The more specific figures are based on 2001, the most recent year for which complete data are available. Other odds, indicated with an asterisk (*) are based on long-term data.

All figures below are for U.S. residents. (personal note, I sure wish WordPress made making tables easier)

Cause of Death Lifetime Odd


Heart Disease………………………..1-in-5
Cancer ……………………………….1-in-7
Stroke…………………………………1-in-23
Accidental Injury…………………….1-in-36
Motor Vehicle Accident*……………1-in-100
Intentional Self-harm (suicide)…….1-in-121
Falling Down………………………….1-in-246
Assault by Firearm…………………..1-in-325
Fire or Smoke………………………..1-in-1,116
Natural Forces (heat, cold, storms, quakes, etc.)…1-in-3,357
Electrocution*……………………….1-in-5,000
Drowning……………………………..1-in-8,942
Air Travel Accident*………………..1-in-20,000
Flood* (incl. in Natural Forces above)……………..1-in-30,000
Legal Execution……………………1-in-58,618
Tornado* (incl. in Natural Forces above)………….1-in-60,000
Lightning Strike (incl. in Natural Forces above)…..1-in-83,930
Snake, Bee or other Venomous Bite or Sting*…….1-in-100,000
Earthquake (incl. in Natural Forces above)………..1-in-131,890
Dog Attack…………………………1-in-147,717
Asteroid Impact*………………….1-in-200,000**
Tsunami*…………………………..1-in-500,000
Fireworks Discharge………………1-in-615,488

**perhaps 1-in-500,000

SOURCES: National Center for Health Statistics, CDC; American Cancer Society; National Safety Council; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; World Health Organization; USGS; Clark Chapman, SwRI; David Morrison, NASA; Michael Paine, Planetary Society Australian Volunteers

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