We all gotta die of something, but probably not what we most fear

death infographicMaybe you saw this infographic yesterday. I got it from a Business Insider (Australia) article that showed up in my newsfeed: “The things most likely to kill you in one infographic.” With all of our fear and anxiety about terrorism and plane crashes, it turns out that what’s way more likely to kill us is the health-related stuff.

I drive my car without giving it much thought, but I obsess about the possibility of being killed or seriously injured riding my bike on the road. Maybe in this infographic they both count as “transport related accidents,” but in terms of sheer numbers, the death toll in car accidents is enormous.

For me, I think a relevant factor in the fear is that in the event of an accident, cyclists are more vulnerable to serious injury than people in cars. I had the same worry on my motorcycle, namely, that the consequences of an accident were just likely to be that much worse. But I don’t even know if that’s right. (as an aside, the reason most of us are unlikely to die in a war is that most of us are unlikely to be in a war zone. I’m sure that statistic goes up enormously if we limit the demographic to people living in war zones).

What the info-graphic shows is that there are lots of things to worry about before “transport-related accidents.” Suicide is more probable than that. But there are a whole slew of health things, and this infographic is meant to give us perspective.

The good thing about health stuff is that lots of it is preventable. There is documented evidence to support the claim that adopting a healthy lifestyle, with some sort of movement, a balanced approach to eating, adequate sleep, and attention to mental health, can increase a person’s expected lifespan.

And while we can’t plan not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, we can make decisions about how to live day to day in way that makes some of the things at the top end of “things most likely to kill you” less likely.

Back in the day, people used to die of something called “old age.” If you look at this infographic, “old age” isn’t even a thing on it. This makes sense because it’s not an ailment in itself — of course it’s not. But it would be helpful to have some age stats on some of these health-related causes of death. My guess is that many of them become more likely as we get older.

And that too bodes well for people who are in a position to make healthy choices.

Is this kind of thing enough to make me relax about riding my bike?  Well, I’m not so sure.  I mean, I get that the probability of dying of something not health-related is relatively low. But everyone dies of something. And one thing we do not have the gift (or curse) of is knowing what, in our own case, that something will be.

Meanwhile, I agree that there’s no point in being overly preoccupied with our inevitable death.  The how and when of it is not within our control. But if, as this infographic suggests, chances are good that most of us will die from “natural causes,” that makes at least a good statistical case for keeping things in perspective.

What about you? Does this infographic give you helpful perspective?

11 thoughts on “We all gotta die of something, but probably not what we most fear

  1. I’m recently doing a presentation for my University studies and have discovered that in the UK, an elderly person dies every 7 minutes from purely the cold in their home! Thats 200 a day and 8,000 more every time the temperature drops down one degree. So sad. Even the coldestt city in the world has 0 excess winter deaths!! Deffo need more awareness over your issue!

  2. Perhaps this might be why over 65% of my local rides tends to be on bike paths and bike lanes though I don’t truly think about it. Still that didn’t protect me from another cyclist crashing into me when I turned the corner on a path.

    No, I worry when a friend-driver is texting /looking at her iPhone when she’s driving.

    1. Texting and driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving, so your worry is not misplaced. I’m sure if we drilled down on the transport related accidents that would be a major culprit.

  3. Have you considered that the road bike thing is anxiety akin to a phobia? It’s not really rational but you experience it like a threat to your life. No one could ride comfortably in that state. Being a therapist, I am looking at it through that lense but what about therapy? CBT or EMDR would be what you might look for just for this. Outdoor riding has so many good things. I would be cool to be able to do it without being terrified. 🙂

    1. Yes. I have identified it as a phobia. But I have not thought to pursue it with a therapist (priorities, priorities! So many other therapy-worthy “issues”!).

      Also, though we haven’t ridden together, it’s not true that I’m actually terrified. Samantha will tell you that I seem quite relaxed on the bike, which is sort of true. It’s hard to explain. It’s like an underlying fear that rises up whenever there is traffic.

  4. Amazing post. Heart disease, the number one cause of death, is almost entirely preventable with a reasonable diet and regular exercise! Everyone should see this. Thank you for sharing!

  5. The anxiety about the road sets in when I get tired on the bike. I don’t start out anxious and I’m rarely anxious when commuting in Toronto traffic (which is probably totally misplaced). But on a road bike as I get tired I develop a preoccupation with not being able to get my cleats unclicked. Then I do dumb things like loosen the connections, probably too much. That tells me something about how I’m aware at some unspoken level of a profound shift in my responsiveness. On that infographic, I’m curious about why there are so many more non-transport accidents. Falling in bath? Falling off ladders? Skiing concussions? My mother worries about construction cranes falling on her.

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