I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room on Tuesday, thumbing through not particularly current periodicals, when I came upon this story in Newsweek, What Should You Really Be Afraid Of? The point of the article was to show that although there are things in this world that are scary, if you look at the numbers other things are a lot more dangerous.
In 2008, the number of murders committed in the United States was 14,180. That same year, 33,289 suicides were committed. So, you are about twice more likely to kill yourself than to die from someone else’s hand. Yet no one fears suicide, like they do murder. Most murders are committed by someone known to the victim. Yet there is a booming firearms trade in this country, fomented by people afraid that some unknown assailant is going to break into their house and murder them in their bed.
In 1999 (the latest year that Newsweek could find data on), 115 children were abducted by strangers. In 2006, 288 children drowned in pools. Parents encourage their children to swim in pools, but discourage then from speaking with strangers. Whenever either tragedy occurs, the parents feel guilty and society blames them of neglect.
How about 2.2 million burglaries versus 8.3 million identity thefts? If you are reading this post, you are probably more likely to encounter the latter than the former. If you are writing this post, you are definitely more likely to encounter the latter than the former.
I’m still more afraid that I’ll be one of the 28 people that are attacked by sharks than I am of being one of the 4.5 million people bitten by dogs. I been bitten by a dog and I have only seen a shark while standing on dry land, but I have seen Jaws. Thank you, Steven Spielberg.
33 Americans were killed by terrorist attacks around the world in 2008. Every year, 36,171 Americans die from seasonal flu. Get your flu shots! You know who you are. You are not getting any younger.
This Saturday in Saint Louis, an estimated, record 70,000 Saint Louisans will participate in the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure event. The Komen Race is a charity event to help fight breast cancer. 40,170 women died of breast cancer last year. Compared to 432,709 women that died from cardiovascular disease.
Fear of flying? Why not drive instead? 321 people suffered fatal airline accidents, while 34,017 people died in automobile accidents.
Newsweek’s final statistic pair was all about death and taxes and with this pair I part ways with the point that they were trying to make. Although many things that we are afraid of are dwarfed by less frightening things that we really should be more afraid of, the fact that 1.4 million Americans will be audited next year by the IRS is not scarier than the fact that 2.4 million Americans will die. But, then Anne does our taxes.
I think in some of the cases you listed, the reason for the fear is lack of control. As an airline passenger, I can’t control what the plane does but I can control my car. As a parent, I can watch my child in a pool (or lake) like a hawk (I am in control) but when I send her out the door to school alone, I don’t know who might be lurking in the deep dark scary woods.
An anecdote about flu shots. A friend’s husband got the seasonal flu shot last fall, immediately became ill and eventually almost died before they figured out that it had triggered (or whatever) lupus. He finally went back to work over six months later.