Death: The Biggest Risk
What's the biggest peril you face? At some level it's "the end of your continued existence". All other risks have at least some chance of avoidance and some chance of your valuation of the rewards and downsides changing.
Death, however, is rather final. Having been shot at in my life a time or two, one does not always appreciate the risk involved in one's actions until the proverbial feces hits the fan. So you would think that knowing your odds of demise would help you avoid such problems.
As it turns out, that is not precisely true… but knowing the odds is informative. Here are some odds for your death, over your lifetime in the US as of 2018, from the following causes:
Heart Attack 1 in 6
Cancer 1 in 7
Suicide 1 in 86
Opioid overdose 1 in 98
Motor vehicle crash 1 in 106
Assault by gun 1 in 298 (for those of you not from the US, this varies widely by locale)
Motorcycle rider 1 in 911
Drowning 1 in 1121
Choking on food 1 in 2618
Bicyclist 1 in 4060
Dog 1 in 118,676
Lightning 1 in 180,746 (23 US deaths in 2018)
(sourced from the National Safety Council)
Death statistics are calculated differently in different sources, because the number of deaths can vary from year to year and does not necessarily indicate the odds you will meet your end. The above numbers are "lifetime odds of death" which take per-year population averages and combine with current life expectancy. For more esoteric forms of doom, deaths per year tend to be what is available. So for those more exotic phobias you may have…
US Fatalities in 2018, sourced from CDC Wonder (for comparison, the US population in 2018 was 328 million)
Falling down stairs 2509
Legal intervention involving firearm discharge 539
Falling off chair 305
Wildfire / brushfire 129
West Nile fever 126
Rider thrown from animal 61
Skating (ice, roller, or board) 57
Fall from tree 54
Canoe or kayak sinking 45
Hang glider 17
Struck by sports equipment 8
Surfing / windsurfing 7
Venomous spider 4
Discharge of Firework 3
Balloon accident 1
Shark attack 1
The oddest one, at least to me, and the one that inspired this post: Roughly 40 people each year in the US are killed by pigs. Details matter, though – attacks by wild hogs are rare in the US (there was one fatal attack in Texas in 2019), but farm accidents happen a few times a year and most are actually stray pigs struck in the road in a motor accident.
Now, an interesting thought experiment: do these risks actually affect our day-to-day thinking? I know for myself they actually have, a bit. In compiling these I came across a few items relevant to my exposure. I am a summer cyclist and log 100 miles plus a week, and would never have guessed that my risk was a quarter of that of a motorcyclist. I have since purchased a new helmet, additional daytime-visible bike lighting, and changed a couple of my more risky routes. So maybe knowledge of risks does help reduce them?
On the other hand, your risk of dying eventually is 100%. So, as they say, don’t worry about it. The stress will get you faster than anything else will.