You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘sensationalism’ tag.
December 26, 2008 in health | Tags: air travel, airplane, assault, car accidents, death, media, medical malpractice, murder, news, news media, odds of dying, passenger, sensationalism, world health organization | Leave a comment
Have you ever thought about the odds from dying from reason x or y? I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t, but I’m sure it’s something that has crossed your mind at some point. A friend of mine sent me a link that gives the odds of dying from a whole host of possible causes. While it is kind of depressing to consider each and every scenario, this link also puts things into perspective, given a news media that seems to always be reporting deaths from this crash or that fall (perhaps it’s only the American media that’s guilty of that).
The odds are given as one-year odds (for 2005) and lifetime odds (for people born in 2005). Most of the data represents a compilation of data from several injury categories. These categories are defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Most striking (and perhaps most unsurprisingly) are the lifetime odds of dying as either a pedestrian or as a car occupant: 1 in 627 and 1 in 261, respectively. So what this translates to is 1 out of every 627 people will die due to their being a pedestrian, and 1 out of 261 people will die as an occupant in a car over the course of their life. Given that there are some 300 million people in the U.S., that’s a lot of people. Yet this graph doesn’t really give odds of dying in a car-related accident due to other influences, like alcohol, drugs, medical condition, or distraction (Blackberry, cell phones, etc.). The odds represented here are compiled odds. Accounting for all of those factors would probably lessen the odds considerably. The lifetime odds of death due to air travel–a cause of great fear in a lot of people–sits at a comfortable 1 in 6,460. Whether this is because fewer people fly or air travel is more stringently regulated is up for debate, though I’d be willing to go with the latter.
The lifetime odds of death due to injuries or complications sustained as a result of medical interventions is 1 in 1,437. Again, the reason for death isn’t specified, whether due to medical malpractice or a physiological response to a treatment (like organ rejection, for example). The data represented is a compilation of deaths due to a whole host of causes that fall under the umbrella of medical interventions.
These should be taken with a grain of salt, given that for many of these causes of death, there are usually other factors involved. Nonetheless, most represent a decent estimate of one’s odds of dying from any given cause.
In the context of a media that seems to be fixated on deaths from murders, accidents, and suicides, we need to understand the real facts. I hate that I have to differentiate between real facts and mainstream-news-media-drivel. For those of you who haven’t seen “Bowling for Columbine,” I would highly recommend it for the sheer reason that it points out the disparity in news coverage between the U.S. and Canada, with the former being far more sensationalist. Based on the news given in the U.S., it would seem like people are dying from causes at far greater rates than would be predicted by the actual, calculated odds. It’s grossly misleading.
Obviously it’s good to know the risks of certain activities (or the odds, as are presented here, both are similar but are derived differently), yet it shouldn’t cause us to forego things because they carry an inherent risk (though assault and premeditated murders should really be avoided…among other things). It’s a question of weighing the risks and the benefits, and understanding what factors can reduce the risk of undertaking a certain activity.
So go live life…but be mindful of the facts.