Afraid of dying in disaster? Statistically, forget about it

Tsunamis in south Asia, flooding and mudslides in Southern California and blizzards in the upper Midwest – suddenly, even a glance at the news might be enough to convince us that Mother Nature has gone on a rampage.

It’s a forbidding world out there. But we can take some comfort in the fact that natural disasters are rare and the chance that any one of us will perish in a tidal wave, hurricane, earthquake or other natural calamity is very low. That’s even though studies conducted over the past 25 years consistently have found that most people believe the odds are very high.

Statistically speaking, a person is more likely to die by falling from a tall building, slipping in the bathtub or being legally executed than to perish in an earthquake, flood or cataclysmic storm such as a hurricane, according to the latest estimates by the National Safety Council derived from 2001 data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The overall chance that an individual born in 2001 will die from any “force of nature” is estimated to be 1 in 3,357.

Here are the lifetime odds of succumbing to various natural calamities:

Exposure to excessive natural cold: 1 in 6,165

Exposure to excessive natural heat: 1 in 12,310

Cataclysmic storm: 1 in 68,388

Lightning: 1 in 83,930

Flood: 1 in 105, 512

Earthquake: 1 in 131,890

Exposure to all other unspecified forces of nature: 1 in 92,323

And here are the lifetime odds of expiring from some specific causes of death, based on official tallies:

Suicide: 1 in 121

Car accident: 1 in 247

Pedestrian accident: 1 in 608

Complications from medical or surgical care: 1 in 1,222

Riding a bike: 1 in 4,663

Falling from a ladder or scaffold: 1 in 8,412

Legal execution: 1 in 58,618

Being buried alive in a cave-in or landslide: 1 in 65,945

Dog bite: 1 in 147,717

Fireworks accident: 1 in 615,488

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