Odds of Dying

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.


Lifetime odds of death for selected causes, United States, 2016
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 91
Motor Vehicle Crash 1 in 102
Opioid pain killers 1 in 109
Fall 1 in 119
Gun Assault 1 in 285
Pedestrian Incident 1 in 561
Motorcyclist 1 in 846
Drowning 1 in 1,086
Fire or Smoke 1 in 1,506
Choking on Food 1 in 3,138
Bicyclist 1 in 4,050
Accidental Gun Discharge 1 in 8,305
Sunstroke 1 in 8,976
Electrocution, Radiation, Extreme Temperatures and Pressure 1 in 14,630
Sharp objects 1 in 27,407
Hornet, wasp and bee stings 1 in 54,093
Hot surfaces and substances 1 in 56,316
Cataclysmic Storm 1 in 62,288
Lightning 1 in 114,195
Dog attack 1 in 132,614
Railway passenger 1 in 178,741
Passenger on an airplane 1 in 205,552

Source: National Safety Council estimates based on data from National Center for Health Statistics—Mortality Data for 2015, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program.  Population and life expectancy data are from the U.S. Census Bureau. Deaths are classified on the basis of the Tenth Revision of the World Health Organization’s “The International Classification of Diseases” (ICD). Numbers following titles refer to External Cause of Morbidity and Mortality classifications in ICD-10.

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