Every day, each one of us has to negotiate through a world that could kill us a thousand ways. From household chemicals that could poison you to bacteria in your food, accidents in the home, accidents on the street, diseases, violent attacks and unexpected acts of God, every day is a cornucopia of potential chaos. But we manage. We manage so well, in fact, that we can start underestimating just how dangerous so much of the world truly is.
10. Prescription Drugs are Deadlier Than Street Drugs.
Most of us have heard the media or politicians talking about the opioid crisis but the fact is this current fear of medication abuse is just the latest in a long history of prescription drugs proving to be far more dangerous than so-called street or illicit drugs. And it makes sense when you think about it because street drugs are generally a lot harder for the average person to find, and also a lot less desirable. Why would an affluent, middle-class person go out in search of crack when their own doctor can prescribe something more effective that may also be covered by a drug plan?
In 2020, researchers from two universities concluded that while official drug-related deaths in 2016 were recorded at about 9%, the reality is probably at least twice that. The official numbers were most just focused on overdoses and drug-fueled disorders while ignoring things like suicides or physical conditions exacerbated or even caused by drug use.
Back in 2012, prescription drug abuse was already far outpacing cocaine and heroin for deaths. Doctors have historically had a habit of over prescribing painkillers in an irresponsible manner, resulting in many patients overdosing. And while we’re more aware of it today, it’s still a major problem. Of the nearly 107,000 drug overdoses in 2021, over 80,000 were from opioids. Stimulants like cocaine and meth contributed to about 54,000.
9. Mosquitoes Kill More People Than Any Other Animal
In 2022 there were 57 unprovoked shark attacks and 5 shark-related fatalities. In 2019, 48 Americans died from dog attacks. But mosquitoes? They kill about 725,000 people per year. They’re the deadliest creature on earth next to humans.
Mosquitoes transmit diseases like West Nile, malaria, Zika, dengue and numerous others. Since mosquitoes live in every country on earth except Iceland, nearly everyone is at risk of one of the mosquito borne illnesses or other, depending on where they’re located.
8. Dirty Water Kills More People Than War
It’s hard to overstate the value of having access to clean water and when you don’t have it, the results can be devastating. The people of Flint, Michigan have been dealing with unclean water since at least 2014 with progress to get them back to safe, clean water still ongoing as a result of numerous failures to fix the situation caused by switching the municipal water supply to the Flint River and the subsequent damage to pipes in the city as a result.
According to the UN, back in 2010 one child under five was dying every 20 seconds due to water-related illness. Unclear water claims more lives than even war. Around the world, about 772 million people still lack even basic access to clean water. That’s more than twice the population of the entire United States.
Unclean water can lead to diseases like cholera, hepatitis and countless others. Not only does this cause more deaths than war, it also causes more deaths than natural disasters and war combined. In 2020, about 8,200 people died in natural disasters and 87,400 died in wars and conflicts. However, about 485,000 died from not having access to clean water.
7. Autoerotic Asphyxiation Kills 100 Times as Many People as Sharks
By now most of us know that shark attacks are barely a thing, sharks have been horribly maligned in the past, and they’re generally fairly docile creatures that are not typically dangerous at all. But because they do have a fearsome reputation and are so intimidating, there’s some fun to be had by using them in these comparisons, saying people are more likely to die because of X rather than shark attacks. The point is meant to shock with the contrast.
If you want a true shock, then this is the statistic you’re looking for. Autoerotic asphyxiation kills about between 50 and 200 times as many people in the US per year as shark attacks do worldwide. In fact, about 250 to as many as 1,000 people per year die from it. Depending on the range of dates studied, that can be bumped up to 500 to 1,000 per year. Sharks, as we already mentioned, killed only 5 people in 2022. So autoerotic asphyxiation is potentially 200 times deadlier than a shark. Maybe that’s something Spielberg can make a movie about.
6. Livestock Kill More People in Australia Than Spiders and Snakes
Australia has a reputation for being an inhospitable land where everything is poisonous in one way or another. And while it’s true that many of the world’s most venomous creatures call Australia home, they aren’t the ones you need to keep your eye on. It’s horses. Horses and cows in Australia kill more people there than snakes or spiders.
Between 2008 and 2017, cows and horses teamed up to take out 77 humans. Spiders haven’t even killed anyone there since the 1970s. And when it comes to snakes, the death toll from 2000 to 2013 was 27.
The discrepancy likely has more to do with people realizing they need to avoid deadly snakes and spiders and therefore not getting close to them while simultaneously not realizing how potentially dangerous livestock and horses can be. People do need to interact with cows and horses, not so much venomous snakes.
5. Radon Kills More People Than House Fires
Radon is something you almost never hear about which is strange considering just how dangerous it is. It’s the number one cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and kills about 21,000 people per year. That’s more than house fires and carbon monoxide combined, not to mention drownings. And it’s somewhat more concerning when you find out it occurs naturally, it’s probably in your house, and as many as 25% of houses have dangerous levels of it without homeowners realizing it. About one in 15 American homes have high radon levels.
Most of us think we’ll never have to fear radiation and that’s arguably why radon is such a problem. It’s a radioactive gas that’s a natural byproduct of uranium decay. As uranium in soil all over the world breaks down, radon is released and it can slowly leak into the basement of your home through the foundation if there are any cracks or crevices to the outside world. Once inside it gets trapped and builds up. It sounds like it may be an old home issue but some new homes are even worse than older ones. And since the gas is colorless and odorless, it’s pretty hard to tell one way or another.
4. Food Poisoning Is Almost as Much of a Risk as Murder
Studies suggest about 25% of Americans fear being attacked right in their own neighborhoods. In reality, you have a 1 in 14,295 chance of being robbed on the street and even less of being murdered. There were just over 26,000 homicides in America in 2021. There were 464,000 murders worldwide in 2017. While that’s nothing to joke about, you’ll want to be keeping just as close an eye on your chef as any potential killers out there.
According to research from the World Health Organization, about 420,000 per year die from foodborne illness or food poisoning. Those are just the fatalities. About 600 million people a year get sick.
In America, about 48 million people per year will get food poisoning and 128,000 end up in the hospital. Of those, around 3,000 per year will die.
3. Captive Orca Whales Kill More People than Wild Ones
The name killer whale certainly sets up expectations for what kind of animal you’re dealing with. Despite the name, killer whales are not typically a danger to humans at all and there is no story on record of a human ever being killed by a wild orca. Even attacks are rare and it’s likely those were mistakes. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t killed anyone.
In a cruel twist, although one that may be fitting, killer whales can and do kill people but only when you try to keep them in captivity. Four fatalities have occurred as a result of captive whales attacking, and three of those were caused by the same whale, an orca named Tilikum who’d been held in captivity for 33 years at Sea World.
2. Female Named Hurricanes are Deadlier Than Male Ones
Every year during hurricane season, parts of the United States have to brace for the inevitable as storms move through causing mayhem and, in many cases, loss of life. In 2022, Hurricane Ian alone killed 144 people.
It’s almost impossible to predict just how deadly a hurricane can be but there is a curious pattern that’s been identified over the last few years. Hurricanes with female names are deadlier. There’s even a reason why.
Hurricanes are named as they form every year, and they are named alphabetically and in a gendered way. The World Meteorological Association has a list of names and they switch back and forth between male and female. They have six years worth of names before the lists recycle.
It’s been argued that female storms are deadlier because of a social bias and sexism. People are less inclined to believe a storm with a female name is dangerous because it has a female name. When less risk is perceived, people are less likely to adequately prepare and the damage is greater.
1. Depression Can be Linked Hundreds of Thousands of Deaths Per Year
There’s still a stigma against depression and those who suffer from it, a sort of generalized belief that you can get over it if you just try to cheer up. Slowly, people are coming around to realize there’s more to clinical depression than just feeling down, but it does take time. In the meantime, we’re also losing sight of just how damaging depression can be.
Depression can be linked to hundreds of thousands of deaths per year. With over 121 million people known to suffer depression and likely many more going undiagnosed, it’s believed that severe depression leading to suicide claims 850,000 lives per year. Every 12 minutes, someone in the US dies from suicide. That’s more than war, murder and natural disasters by far. In fact, in 2015, suicide deaths were almost double those of homicides in America.