What are your chances of dying?

As an avid mountaineer and extreme sportist, I often face barrages of criticism from people questioning my common sense. I routinely have to defend myself against people questioning my desire to live. “It’s so dangerous!” they say, “aren’t you scared of ending up like Mallory?”. Having reached the point whereby I’m on the verge of dying of boredom from repeatedly answering to this, I’ve decided to write this post to put things into perspective. Here I’ve compiled a list of various events – some obscure, others common – and their respective probabilities, which I’ve kindly sorted into ascending order. In particular, notice how winning the lottery is at the base of the list, and dying from lifestyle induced illnesses are towards the end.

Winning first division prize in Australian Powerball lottery: 0.000000015%
Contracting HIV from unprotected intercourse with a person of unknown status: 0.0001%
Dying from plutonium fallout: 0.00005%
Death by lightning bolt: 0.011%
Death during mountaineering accident in Mt. Cook National Park: 0.062% (per hut night)
Dying in a road accident as a pedestrian: 0.11%
Dying of cancer related to second-hand smoke: 0.14%
Contracting HIV from unprotected intercourse with a HIV+ partner: 0.1%
Dying in a road accident in a vehicle: 1.2%
Death from lung cancer: 6.0%
Death from cancer: 21%
Death from heart disease: 20%
Probability of developing cancer (but not necessarily dying): 45%

So, when people say “the chance of being hit by lightning is about the same as winning the lottery” they’re completely wrong, by about six order of magnitude in fact. However, having said that, I wouldn’t be too concerned about being hit by lightning, which is exceptionally unlikely. It’s just that the chance of winning lottery is even more exceptionally unlikely. In fact, to put things into perspective, you’re about 5000 times more likely to dye from plutonium fallout than winning the lottery. Are you scared of plutonium fallout? Good, then don’t buy a lottery ticket.

Peter’s wisdom for the day: Don’t drive a car. Climb mountains and walk in the rain instead. It’ll save you dying from heart disease. And whatever you do, don’t even think about buying a lottery ticket.

Note: Following a flood of people telling me how dubious my statistics are, allow me to clarify that these stats have no scientific credibility whatesoever – they were pulled from Google in 5 minutes, for entertainment purposes only. Do not quote these figures unless you also allow a 2-3 order of magnitude error bar.

3 thoughts on “What are your chances of dying?”

  1. Ok cool, except .00005 for Plutonium fallout would mean that 15,000 people are dying from Plutonium fallout in the U.S. alone? 250,000 worldwide? Where is this stuff coming from? Maybe if the category was radioactive leakage including iodine, and strontium, and so on, i.e. bomb test fallout, and Chernobyl but Plutonium? This sounds like it is from one of those discredited linear dose extrapolations.

  2. Yep, I agree completely Mark. I should point out that none of the figures I quote are from particularly reputable sources. In fact, they’re all straight from the internet and therefore likely to have orders of magnitude error margins.

  3. I always liked the chances of a stopped clock telling the right time.

    Of course this depends on how accurately you define “right” – but going on the clocks in my life this means, say, + or – 10 mins. Therefore the probability is 1/36.

    Also isn’t comparing the risk of dying on one days hiking with that of dying over a lifetime of pedestrainism a little misleading?

    And remember 98.7% of statistics are made up on the spot.

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