Death is not something we generally take lightly or find a lot of joy in. Statistics about death are therefore not likely to be fun or joyful, either. But what you may not be aware of is just how dark and unbelievable some of the statistics about death truly are. Lucky for you, we’ve pulled together some right here.
10. Soldiers Are Four Times as Likely to Die By Suicide Than in Combat
Soldiers have one of the most dangerous jobs in existence by definition. You may be called upon to go to war, to take up arms against an enemy and find yourself in a situation where you have to kill or be killed. It’s a harrowing notion at best. You can assume no one takes the job wanting to die, but that they are willing to do so if it comes to that.
While death is a potential outcome, obviously it’s not a confirmed or desired one. And when you look at the statistics regarding the death of soldiers, you find something incredibly unexpected. Since 9/11, a soldier in the US is four times as likely to die by suicide than to be killed in combat.
The study came out in 2021 and it found that, since 9/11 — which was 20 years prior — a staggering 30,177 active duty personnel and veterans, all of whom had served on active duty since that date, died by suicide. That was in contrast to the 7.057 who died in combat over the same period.
These numbers put suicide rates of soldiers and veterans above those of the general population, something which had not previously been the case.
9. Americans Are Three Times as Likely To Die in Car Crashes Than the French
Sometimes numbers exist in a vacuum and are hard to understand. If 100 Americans per year die from rabbit attacks, it’s hard to say if that stat is meant to show how safe rabbits are or how dangerous. Comparing rates to other countries can help bring context and give you a fuller understanding of what a statistic means.
Car crash fatalities are one of those things that can exist in a vacuum. In 2021, 42,915 people in America died in traffic accidents. This was reportedly a 16 year high for traffic deaths. But there was some question whether this was uniquely American or did Covid have something to do with it resulting in more accidents all around the world?
In the 1970s, France and the US had very similar traffic death statistics. At that time, around 225 citizens per million died in such accidents. Through the 1990s the rates of fatalities declined by about 31% in both countries as safety measures to prevent deaths were employed in both countries.
After the ’90s, deaths in France continued to decline while those in America took a 180 and started going up again. The US is the only country in the G7 nations where this happened, all others continued a downward trend. By 2021, Americans were three times as likely to die in a traffic accident as the French. The French are 40% less likely to die per mile driven than Americans.
8. People Who Attempt Suicide Are Seven Times More Likely to Die of a Heart Condition Before 40
Any time someone feels they need to attempt suicide it’s a serious issue that can hopefully be addressed before the worst happens. Depression and mental health issues are finally becoming understood and not as stigmatized as they once were which means, in the future, we can save more lives. But the side effects of this are still to be discovered and fully explored and the picture we’re getting is surprising and grim.
There has been a long-standing link between depression and chronic heart disease. However, more research into how they work together, especially in younger patients, shows a concerning correlation. Research has shown that people who attempt suicide are at seven times higher risk for ischemic heart disease while people suffering from depression were at 4 times greater risk before age 40.
7. Funny People Seem to Die Younger
Bad news if you’re the class clown. Statistically speaking, funny people seem to die younger than their more serious counterparts. And even if you are funny, the funnier you are, the more likely you are to die. That’s a hell of a punchline.
Research has shown that comedians tend to die younger than dramatic actors. The funnier a comedian is perceived to be, the sooner they seem to die. In comedy duos with a funny guy and a straight man, the funny guy is routinely the one who dies first. The funniest comedians died at an average age of 63.3 while the others made it almost another decade.
While no solid conclusions are drawn, authors of the study did point out that many comedians report issues with depression and/or mania.
6. Economic Depressions are Better for Mortality
No one gets excited when they hear they are headed for a recession or a depression. But research does indicate there are some small reasons to be excited. It turns out that mortality is one of the few things to get a boost during a depression as fewer people die during economic downturns.
The reasons for this are complex and not exactly known, but there is some reasonable guessing behind it all. During an economic collapse you have fewer people driving and that lowers the mortality rate for accidents. This in turn improves air quality by lowering pollution. That lowers respiratory disease and pulmonary condition deaths.
If fewer people go to work, there are fewer workplace injuries. If people are making less money, they also have less to spend on vices like drinking, fast food and smoking. People cook healthier meals and get more exercise with increased time on their hands.
Obviously it’s not all rainbows and the toll on mental health, depression, binge drinking for a small population are still destructive, but the overall numbers seem to favor a depression as a thing that saves lives rather than costing them.
5. You Are 6% More Likely to Die in the Hospital on Black Wednesday
Black Wednesday is the name used in the UK to describe the first Wednesday in August when new doctors are finally allowed to work on their own in hospitals. It’s long been a rumor that this is the deadliest day to be a patient, presumably because of all the mistakes new and untested doctors will make.
The theory was put to the test by analyzing patient mortality statistics and it turned out to be true. A patient was 6% more likely to die on that day. There is debate about whether this proves anything as not all hospitals can replicate this data and there could be other factors at play, like more doctors going on vacation over the summer so there’s less access to care.
The percentage difference works out to about 13 more deaths, so while it’s not favorable it’s not extreme, either. There are certainly many factors at play and not every hospital follows this pattern but, if you’re worried, try making sure you avoid hospitals in the summer.
4. You May Be 14% More Likely to Die on Your Birthday
You would think that, with 365 days in a year, your odds of dying on any given day are one in 365. The days are essentially arbitrary, after all, why would anything be more likely to happen today than tomorrow? Well, that’s not how things work.
Swiss researchers determined the average person is 14% more likely to die on their birthday than any other day of the year. And this was not another case of a small sample size skewing results in a strange way. They studied a total of 2.5 million deaths from 1969 through 2008.
So what makes someone that much more likely to die on their birthday than any other day? A couple of hypotheses were dismissed out of hand, like the idea that people manage to hold on when they’re dying until they reach a birthday, as well as the idea that you might engage in riskier behavior on your birthday. If people “held on” there’d be a dip in numbers before, which there is not. If people were engaging in riskier behavior, then the evidence of accidents would increase, which it doesn’t.
One guess as to why it happens deflates the entire premise. A statistician in the UK suggested the true answer may just be sloppy record keeping. For instance, someone may have filled out a death certificate incorrectly and put the date of birth in the date of death by accident. Or, if they didn’t know the date of birth, they may have filled that in with the date of death as well.
It’s only speculation, but it only takes a clerical error in 0.04% of the death records to make it true. But until that’s confirmed, the data still suggests a person’s birthday may be an ominous day indeed.
3. Neurosurgeons May Be More Than Twice as Likely to Die of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease was the cause of 121,499 deaths in 2019. More than six million Americans over age 65 have been diagnosed. It’s been studied for years and a lot of time, effort and money has gone into combating the disease but we still don’t even know what causes it.
One theory that does not get a lot of attention is the germ theory of Alzheimer’s, that perhaps some bacteria or parasite or protein causes the illness. This has been supported by research which suggests neurosurgeons who work on Alzheimer’s patients are two and a half times more likely to contract the illness than the average person. An earlier report suggested the rate was six times as high.
The notion of an Alzheimer’s germ has come up a few times in the past but not in a way that garnered much attention and so little research has been done.
2. Pro wrestlers Have a Higher Mortality Than Any Other Athletes
If you’re a fan of pro wrestling, then this will not be a surprise to you at all. Pro wrestlers are statistically far more likely to die prematurely from several causes compared to the population at large and even other pro athletes.
Across the board, mortality rates for wrestlers are pretty astonishing. Compared to the average male, a wrestler is 15 times more likely to die of a cardio-vascular condition, 6.4 times more likely to die of cancer and a staggering 122.7 times more likely to die of a drug overdose.
Even compared to other athletes, especially football players, wrestlers have much higher mortality rates. Data from 2014 showed that about 16% of wrestlers died by ages 40 to 45 and that climbed to 20% just before age 50. NFL players reached their peak at 55 to 60 years of age when just over 6% died by that age.
1. That’s an Increased Risk of Dying If You Get Surgery on Your Surgeon’s Birthday
Of all the things you might want to take into consideration before having surgery, one you probably never thought of was your surgeon’s birthday. But if you’re an elderly patient, you may want to ask. There is a statistical increase in the odds of you dying if your surgeon is working on his birthday.
When looking at 30-day mortality rates after surgery, elderly patients were 23% more likely to die if surgery took place on the surgeon’s birthday than if it happened on any other day. They gleaned the data from nearly one million surgeries, so this is no fluke, this is a real, statistical danger. It’s also comparable to mortality rates on major holidays or any other day that might be distracting to a surgeon.