Putting Risks in Perspective

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about eight-tenths of one percent of Americans died in 2005 (the most recent year for which CDC has published death rates). That’s about 800 persons (825.9 to be precise) out of every 100,000.

To put that number in perspective, imagine a dozen dozen eggs (i.e., a gross of eggs, for those who still know the numeric meaning of “gross”). Only about one of those eggs is broken in the span of a year, in spite of all of the hazards to which the eggs are exposed.

Remember that analogy the next time you read or hear about the “threats” posed by heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, motor-vehicle accidents, firearms, etc., etc., etc. The combined effect of all such “threats” is close to nil; more than 99 percent of Americans survive every year, and more than 70 percent of those who don’t survive are old (age 65 and older). But that’s not the kind of “news” of that sells advertising.

(For much more about mortality in the United States, go here.)