A Data Scientist Explains Odds of Dying in a Terrorist Attack

Written by Zeeshan ul Hassan ·  2 min read >

Here come the daily headlines of Al-Qa’eda, Taliban, ISIS, and all the lone wolf attackers out there from Pakistan to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Nigeria, France, Belgium, USA, Canada and list goes on and on.

Projected and orchestrated by media, sometimes it seems “terrorism” is the only cause of unnatural death that we face. And lives of millions of travelers suffer due to this inevitable “threat”. There were 2.84 billion commercial air passengers in 2011 alone with only 373 fatalities, so one’s chance of dying in the commercial jet is 1 in 7.6 million.

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With the emotion-less and analytical brain that I got, I wanted to put things in perspective. Statistically speaking, here are few odds of dying with the causes:

  • Drowning in a Bathtub: 1 in 685,000
  • Fatally Slipping during a Shower: 1 in 812,232
  • Being Struck by Lightning: 1 in 576,000
  • Being Murdered: 1 in 18,000
  • Dying from any kind of Injury: 1 in 1,820
  • Dying from intentional Self-harm: 1 in 9,380
  • Dying from an Assault: 1 in 16,421
  • Dying from a Car Accident: 1 in 18,585
  • Dying from any kind of Fall: 1 in 20,666mo
  • Dying from Accidental Drowning: 1 in 79,065
  • Dying from Exposure to Smoke, Fire, and Flames: 1 in 81,524
  • Dying from Forces of Nature (earthquake, heat, cold, lightning, flood): 1 in 225,107
  • Dying from Choking on Food: 1 in 370,035
  • Dying in a Fireworks Accident: 1 in 1,000,000
  • Dying from a Dog Bite: 1 in 700,000
  • Dying from Falling off a Ladder: 1 in 2,300,000
  • Dying form unintentional Alcohol Poisoning: 1 in 820,217
  • Dying from a Heart Disease: 1 in 5
  • Dying from a Cancer: 1 in 7
  • Dying from a Stroke: 1 in 23
  • Dying from Electrocution: 1 in 5,000
  • Bee, Snake Venomous Sting: 1 in 100,000
  • Scalded by Hot Tap Water: 1 in 5,000,000
  • By Falling Coconut: 1 in 250,000,000
  • By a Shark Attack: 1 in 300,000,000
  • Dying of a Snake Bite: 1 in 3,500,000
  • Dying from Food Poisoning: 1 in 3,000,000
  • Dying from Accident at Work: 1 in 43,500
  • Dying in a Road Accident: 1 in 8,000

And odds of dying in a terrorist attack while on-board is 1 in 25,000,000 (25 million) and the overall average of dying in any kind of terrorist attack worldwide is 1 in 9,300,000 (9.3 million).

So in contrast, you are 14 times more likely to die in your bathtub than in a terrorist attack, 11 times more likely to die by slipping during a shower, 16 times by lightning, 517 times more likely to be murdered (there is on average one murder every 60 seconds worldwide), 991 times by self-injury, 500 times in a car accident (3,000 people die every day in road accidents worldwide), 450 times by falling, 118 times by accidental drowning, 41 times in natural disasters (earthquake, flood etc.), 25 times by choking on food, 13 times by a dog bite, 4 times by falling off a ladder, 1.8 million times by a heart disease, 1860 times by electrocution, 93 times by bee sting, and 3 times more likely to die by a snake bite or food poisoning.

If not convinced, here is another interesting set of statistics:

  • Odds of being an astronaut: 1 in 13,200,000
  • Odds of winning an Olympic Gold Medal: 1 in 662,000
  • Odds of becoming a President: 1 in 10,000,000
  • Odds of sighting a UFO today: 1 in 3,000,000
  • Odds of dating a Supermodel: 1 in 88,000

So, you have twice the chances of becoming an astronaut than flying in a plane doomed to crash due to a terrorist plot, almost the same chances of becoming a president than dying in a terrorist attack (isn’t it ironic?), three times more likely to sight a UFO today, 14 times more likely to win a gold medal in the Olympics, and 106 times more chances of dating Kim Kardashian.

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If you think this “dating” would never come, then stop fearing about terrorism and start enjoying your life.

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Written by Zeeshan ul Hassan
Dr. Usmani is a Fulbright Scholar and Eisenhower Fellow. He holds a PhD and MS in Computer Science from the Florida Institute of Technology. Profile