You’re More Likely to Be Killed By Brain-Eating Parasites, Texting While Driving, Toddlers, Lightning, Falling Out of Bed ...

George Washington's picture

The U.S. Department of State reports that only 17 U.S. citizens were killed worldwide as a result of terrorism in 2011.* That figure includes deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq and all other theaters of war.

In contrast, the American agency which tracks health-related issues – the U.S. Centers for Disease Control – rounds up the most prevalent causes of death in the United States:

Comparing the CDC numbers to terrorism deaths means:

– You are 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack


– You are 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack

(Keep in mind when reading this entire piece that we are consistently and substantially understating the risk of other causes of death as compared to terrorism, because we are comparing deaths from various causes within the United States against deaths from terrorism worldwide.)

Wikipedia notes that obesity is a a contributing factor in 100,000–400,000 deaths in the United States per year. That makes obesity 5,882 to times 23,528 more likely to kill you than a terrorist.

The annual number of deaths in the U.S. due to avoidable medical errors is as high as 100,000. Indeed, one of the world’s leading medical journals – Lancet – reported in 2011:

A November, 2010, document from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services reported that, when in hospital, one in seven beneficiaries of Medicare (the government-sponsored health-care programme for those aged 65 years and older) have complications from medical errors, which contribute to about 180 000 deaths of patients per year.

That’s just Medicare beneficiaries, not the entire American public. Scientific American noted in 2009:

Preventable medical mistakes and infections are responsible for about 200,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to an investigation by the Hearst media corporation.

And a new study in the current issue of the Journal of Patient Safety says the numbers may be up to 440,000 each year.

But let’s use the lower – 100,000 – figure. That still means that you are 5,882 times more likely to die from medical error than terrorism.

The CDC says that some 80,000 deaths each year are attributable to excessive alcohol use. So you’re 4,706 times more likely to drink yourself to death than die from terrorism.

Wikipedia notes that there were 32,367 automobile accidents in 2011, which means that you are 1,904 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack. As CNN reporter Fareed Zakaria wrote last year:

“Since 9/11, foreign-inspired terrorism has claimed about two dozen lives in the United States. (Meanwhile, more than 100,000 have been killed in gun homicides and more than 400,000 in motor-vehicle accidents.) “

President Obama agreed.

According to a 2011 CDC report, poisoning from prescription drugs is even more likely to kill you than a car crash. Indeed, the CDC stated in 2011 that – in the majority of states – your prescription meds are more likely to kill you than any other source of injury. So your meds are thousands of times more likely to kill you than Al Qaeda.

The financial crisis has also caused quite a few early deaths.  The Guardian reported in 2008:

High-income countries such as the UK and US could see a 6.4% surge in deaths from heart disease, while low-income countries could experience a 26% rise in mortality rates.

Since there were 596,339 deaths from heart disease in the U.S. in 2011 (see CDC table above), that means that there are approximately 38, 165 additional deaths a year from the financial crisis … and Americans are 2,245 times more likely to die from a financial crisis that a terrorist attack. 

Financial crises cause deaths in other ways, as well.  For example, the poverty rate has skyrocketed in the U.S. since the 2008 crash. For example, the poverty rate in 2010 was the highest in 17 years, and more Americans numerically were in poverty as of 2011 than for more than 50 years. Poverty causes increased deaths from hunger, inability to pay for heat and shelter, and other causes. (And – as mentioned below – suicides have skyrocketed recently; many connect the increase in suicides to the downturn in the economy.)

The number of deaths by suicide has also surpassed car crashes. Around 35,000 Americans kill themselves each year (and more American soldiers die by suicide than combat; the number of veterans committing suicide is astronomical and under-reported). So you’re 2,059 times more likely to kill yourself than die at the hand of a terrorist.

The CDC notes that there were 7,638 deaths from HIV and 45 from syphilis, so you’re 452 times more likely to die from risky sexual behavior than terrorism.  (That doesn’t include death by autoerotic asphyxiation … discussed below.)

The National Safety Council reports that more than 6,000 Americans die a year from falls … most of them involve people falling off their roof or ladder trying to clean their gutters, put up Christmas lights and the like. That means that you’re 353 times more likely to fall to your death doing something idiotic than die in a terrorist attack.

The same number – 6,000 – die annually from texting while driving.  So you’re 353 times more likely to meet your maker while lol’ing than by terrorism.

The agency in charge of workplace safety – the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration – reports that 4,609 workers were killed on the job in 2011 within the U.S. homeland. In other words, you are 271 times more likely to die from a workplace accident than terrorism.

The CDC notes that 3,177 people died of “nutritional deficiencies” in 2011, which means you are 187 times more likely to starve to death in American than be killed by terrorism.

Approximately 1,000 Americans die each year from autoerotic asphyxiation.  So you’re 59 times more likely to kill yourself doing weird, kinky things than at the hands of a terrorist.

Some 450 Americans die each year when they fall out of bed, 26 times more than are killed by terrorists.

Scientific American notes:

You might have toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by the microscopic parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which the CDC estimates has infected about 22.5 percent of Americans older than 12 years old

Toxoplasmosis is a brain-parasite. The CDC reports that more than 375 Americans die annually due to toxoplasmosis. In addition, 3 Americans died in 2011 after being exposed to a brain-eating amoeba. So you’re about 22 times more likely to die from a brain-eating zombie parasite than a terrorist.

There were at least 155 Americans killed by police officers in the United States in 2011. That means that you were more than 9 times more likely to be killed by a law enforcement officer than by a terrorist.

Around 34 Americans a year are killed by dog bites … around twice as many as by terrorists.

The 2011 Report on Terrorism from the National Counter Terrorism Center notes that Americans are just as likely to be “crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year” as they are to be killed by terrorists.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that Americans are 110 times more likely to die from contaminated food than terrorism. And see this.

The Jewish Daily Forward noted in May that – even including the people killed in the Boston bombing – you are more likely to be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. And see these statistics from CNN.

Reason notes:

[The risk of being killed by terrorism] compares annual risk of dying in a car accident of 1 in 19,000; drowning in a bathtub at 1 in 800,000; dying in a building fire at 1 in 99,000; or being struck by lightning at 1 in 5,500,000. In other words, in the last five years you were four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist.


The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has just published, Background Report: 9/11, Ten Years Later [PDF]. The report notes, excluding the 9/11 atrocities, that fewer than 500 people died in the U.S. from terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2010.

Scientific American reported in 2011:

John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University, and Mark Stewart, a civil engineer and authority on risk assessment at University of Newcastle in Australia … contended, “a great deal of money appears to have been misspent and would have been far more productive—saved far more lives—if it had been expended in other ways.”

chart comparing annual fatality risksMueller and Stewart noted that, in general, government regulators around the world view fatality risks—say, from nuclear power, industrial toxins or commercial aviation—above one person per million per year as “acceptable.” Between 1970 and 2007 Mueller and Stewart asserted in a separate paper published last year in Foreign Affairs that a total of 3,292 Americans (not counting those in war zones) were killed by terrorists resulting in an annual risk of one in 3.5 million. Americans were more likely to die in an accident involving a bathtub (one in 950,000), a home appliance (one in 1.5 million), a deer (one in two million) or on a commercial airliner (one in 2.9 million).


The global mortality rate of death by terrorism is even lower. Worldwide, terrorism killed 13,971 people between 1975 and 2003, an annual rate of one in 12.5 million. Since 9/11 acts of terrorism carried out by Muslim militants outside of war zones have killed about 300 people per year worldwide. This tally includes attacks not only by al Qaeda but also by “imitators, enthusiasts, look-alikes and wannabes,” according to Mueller and Stewart.


Defenders of U.S. counterterrorism efforts might argue that they have kept casualties low by thwarting attacks. But investigations by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies suggest that 9/11 may have been an outlier—an aberration—rather than a harbinger of future attacks. Muslim terrorists are for the most part “short on know-how, prone to make mistakes, poor at planning” and small in number, Mueller and Stewart stated. Although still potentially dangerous, terrorists hardly represent an “existential” threat on a par with those posed by Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.


In fact, Mueller and Stewart suggested in Homeland Security Affairs, U.S. counterterrorism procedures may indirectly imperil more lives than they preserve: “Increased delays and added costs at U.S. airports due to new security procedures provide incentive for many short-haul passengers to drive to their destination rather than flying, and, since driving is far riskier than air travel, the extra automobile traffic generated has been estimated to result in 500 or more extra road fatalities per year.”


The funds that the U.S. spends on counterterrorism should perhaps be diverted to other more significant perils, such as industrial accidents (one in 53,000), violent crime (one in 22,000), automobile accidents (one in 8,000) and cancer (one in 540). “Overall,” Mueller and Stewart wrote, “vastly more lives could have been saved if counterterrorism funds had instead been spent on combating hazards that present unacceptable risks.” In an e-mail to me, Mueller elaborated:


“The key question, never asked of course, is what would the likelihood be if the added security measures had not been put in place? And, if the chances without the security measures might have been, say, one in 2.5 million per year, were the trillions of dollars in investment (including overseas policing which may have played a major role) worth that gain in security—to move from being unbelievably safe to being unbelievably unbelievably safe? Given that al Qaeda and al Qaeda types have managed to kill some 200 to 400 people throughout the entire world each year outside of war zones since 9/11—including in areas that are far less secure than the U.S.—there is no reason to anticipate that the measures have deterred, foiled or protected against massive casualties in the United States. If the domestic (we leave out overseas) enhanced security measures put into place after 9/11 have saved 100 lives per year in the United States, they would have done so at a cost of $1 billion per saved life. That same money, if invested in a measure that saves lives at a cost of $1 million each—like passive restraints for buses and trucks—would have saved 1,000 times more lives.”


Mueller and Stewart’s analysis is conservative, because it excludes the most lethal and expensive U.S. responses to 9/11. Al Qaeda’s attacks also provoked the U.S. into invading and occupying two countries, at an estimated cost of several trillion dollars. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have resulted in the deaths of more than 6,000 Americans so far—more than twice as many as were killed on September 11, 2001—as well as tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans.




In 2007 New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that people are more likely to be killed by lightning than terrorism. “You can’t sit there and worry about everything,” Bloomberg exclaimed. “Get a life.”

Indeed, the Senior Research Scientist for the Space Science Institute (Alan W. Harris) estimates that the odds of being killed by a terrorist attack is about the same as being hit by an asteroid (and see this).

Terrorism pushes our emotional buttons. And politicians and the media tend to blow the risk of terrorism out of proportion. But as the figures above show, terrorism is a very unlikely cause of death.

Indeed, our spending on anti-terrorism measures is way out of whack … especially because most of the money has been wasted. And see this article, and this 3-minute video by professor Mueller:


Indeed, mission creep in the name of countering terrorism actually makes us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

And corrupt government policy is arguably more dangerous than terrorism.

* Note: The most recent official report – published in 2012 – shows that even fewer Americans were killed by terrorists than in the previous year.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
VWAndy's picture

All these terrorist and yet the Palastinians are fighting the IDF with rocks? They never seem to go after anything logisticaly important either. FFS they dont even jam radios.

 If it was legit it would be a completely different situation. Just as an example in WW2 the Germans had a very hard time in Poland. Many Germans just vanished or were shot while eating or poisend.

 They could do so many things that would really screw things up but they dont. They always do nothing burgers.

 Just saying.

novictim's picture

Look!  We have all agreed to be terrified of terrorism.  Isn't that enough?

So, come on, America! Let's be afraid together! it's the patriotic thing to do!

Be afraid.  Be VERY afraid!

JRobby's picture

Propaganda machine. US needs to throw fear driven money at its crony's

Boubou's picture

My biggest risk is going crazy, waiting for a single thread of logic in what the government does. I may have to isolate myself from news.

Jack4952's picture

As an ex-physician I can assure you that the 440,000 figure for "deaths by preventable medical mistakes and infections" (from the Journal of Patient Safety) is an under-estimate. And when one adds in "deaths by medication", the number skyrockets.

Most such deaths are simply placed into other categories (heart disease, complications of diabetes, etc.) In my medical school class were students who I would not let treat my neighbor's DOG - and I dislike my neighbor's dog!

A few surgeons I knew used to say. "No one dies on the operating table; they all die in the recovery room."


bill1102inf's picture

Hundreds if not thousands of people are killed every DAY by 'Terrorists' of the muzzy type. This is bullshit

HardAssets's picture

Your evidence ? Or do you just like spouting stuff you make up ?

Hurdy Gurdy Man's picture

Yes.  Remain tolerant of defense 9-zero defense budget solicitations out of love now - not fear. 

lakecity55's picture

You are 100 times more likely to be killed by a cop than a terrist.


rsnoble's picture

I think all the US politicians have brain-eating parasites.

TheMadNumismatist's picture

The socialist paradise at work, or trickle down socialism at is best :-) Allow scum bags to sue the police for wads of tax payers cash.

It is the same with railways, network rail, the company that was privatized and re-nationalized and controls the tracks, just fined £53 million for "late trains".

So because taxpayers are late, taxpayers need to pay a fine back to taxpayers.

Same with the NHS: Fined for killing taxpayers, so tax payers need to pay.

daedon's picture

The huge amounts of currency spent to build up DHS is not to protect the public, it is to protect the American oligarchs from the public when the SHTF as a result of their endless greed.

BlackVoid's picture

You have no clue. Thwarting terrorists is not the aim. The goal is total control over everyone.

q99x2's picture

Bullshit. What do you think the 2 billion bullets are for, Bugs Bunny.

Terrorists on a grand level M'Fers.

AdvancingTime's picture

 Americans have come to view Snowden as more  of a whistle-blower rather then as a traitor as the White House tried to paint him. Interestingly a gender gap emerges on how people see the government’s anti-terrorism programs with men being more inclined to think the government has gone to far, it also seems that younger voters, those in their twenties are appalled by the intrusions into our privacy.

Will terrorists kill innocent civilians in the years to come? Of course. They did so more than 100 years ago, when they were called anarchists—and a responsible nation-state must take reasonable measures to protect its citizens. But there is no way to completely eliminate terrorism.The challenge that confronts us is how we will live with that threat. We have created an economy of fear, an industry of fear, a national psychology of fear. Al Qaeda could never have achieved that on its own. We have inflicted it on ourselves. More on this subject in the article below.

Smiley's picture

Bullish;  Asteroid Safety Tax

asteroids's picture

Don't look behind you.... I'm coming to get you.

besnook's picture

well, then, the answer is a tsa for every life threatening danger.

spinone's picture

Wait a few years.

jacship's picture

 Better chance of being killed  from a squirrel then from their so-called terrorist------for whom does it benefit 7



Otrader's picture

Perpetual war = never eding $$$ <for someone else>

"Paying for them is for the little people."

Psquared's picture

The issue isn't whether we might die from terrorism but whether "they" might lose their precious.

Mr. Ed's picture

Well, okay... ya got me there...death by terrorism: probably not.

But what is the probability that I'll become un-employed at the DHS if we're not all scared out of our wits by terrorism?  Whaddya say to that?

Duffy Duck's picture

George  - all kidding aside, you do fantastic work.  Hat's off, man.

Judging by comments on cnn and the - there have to be far, far more right wing Zionists and Evangelical "Christians" than I thought.


If I might recommend a research article, basically an idea from a youtube link to a Sheik..Imran hossein maybe, not gonna check it now..  but look, the average Jew, Arab, Israeli, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant...  good people who don't *really* and literally believe the purported God-written texts are in fact the word of a Supreme Being.


As Nietzche pointed out, if Christians *really* believed in Hell - wouldn't they turn in a life of unending kindness and charity?  "Reflexive belief" is a belief you have only when asked, or in certain contexts.  But, from a certain perspective, what you really believe, pragmatically (Dewey, maybe James, definitely Batman) is what you do. 

Anyway the idea - Judaism, Christianity (certain protestant flavors, anyway) and Islam (both branches) have end of the world scenarios - eschatologies - which almost seem designed to confront one another.  There's a youtube video of some..fuckin southern fake-christian nut talking about how the Islamic messiah will be the antichrist, and the muslims think the Jewish messiah will be the devil who oddly enough Jesus will defeat, and the Evangelicals basically take the Jewish side of matters until they refuse to convert then they go to the lake of fire [always confused me - if a god-like being descends from space and appears to defeat a giant sea monster ridden by a giant whore... wouldn't you sign up to be on his team??]

So the idea is that, while the rest of us may verbally attack each other, and regard other people as deluded cunts, we, for the most part, don't wish to see anyone dead over it.  If we could all address the end-of-the-worlders  - we might get a sense of the religious angle certainly feeding part of things - most certainly amongst many if not most of the Jewish settlers, Islamic terror groups, Southern Judaized Zio-Christians, and the government of Bibi Nuttyyahoo.



TVP's picture

Everything you said was golden up until this:

"while the rest of us may verbally attack each other, and regard other people as deluded cunts, we, for the most part, don't wish to see anyone dead over it."

Disagree.  I very much wish death upon most of the deluded cunts that I have to verbally attack in order to get through their thick skulls.  

I realize this makes me no better than the elite luciferian sociopaths, but one must admit they ARE genuises, despite the devil drilling his dick into all their holes simultaneously (he can do that, he has supernatural fucking powers)


rsnoble's picture

Try changing their diets first.  Almost everyone i've ever known that sustained themselves on hot dogs and chips was a fucking dumbass.  LOL.

medium giraffe's picture

If they are that clever the presidential candidate screening process would have been more rigorous.


GooseShtepping Moron's picture

I never cease to be amazed by the staggering butcher's bill we cough up for the privilege of happy motoring. That mild, free-floating anxiety I feel whenever I'm about to get into a car suddenly makes much more sense.

ableman28's picture

American citizens are more likely to be killed by the police than they are terrorists, by a long shot.....uh, so to speak.

HardAssets's picture

A few weeks after the Sandy Hook school shooting I visited several pro 2nd Amendment websites to check out opinions. The overall consensus seemed to be to hire more police to be in every school. I pointed out that you're far more likely to be struck by lightning than be a victim of a mass shooting. I provided sources for confirming these stats.

But the facts didn't matter to most of the people. I don't know if it was the 'do something disease' or a lack of familiarity with probability, or what.

tony bonn's picture

the satan worshipping dick cheney has been running around threatening americans with another terrorist attack - even worse than the one he perpetrated on nyc and the pentagon....the wickedness of that piece of shit knows no boundaries.

the attacks of 9/11 were nuclear. i used to think it was nanothermite, but the nanothermite was a byproduct of the nuclear explosions...this is what is being planned now....veterans today has an excellent article this past week discussing the plans for the attack from insiders at nuclear labs...

the bush crime syndicate and rockefeller nazis have to be stopped.

Reaper's picture

The sheeple crave security and want to trust in their rulers. If their government is doing something, they feel more secure. This isn't about logic or thinking. This is about appearances, not results. This selling of protection has been going on for a long time.
When sailing off Greece, I saw that the Temple of Poseidon was located above a high cliff overlooking a sharp turn of the coast with the wind blowing much stronger towards the rocks below. What a money maker that Temple was. Every sailor and ship owner would want to buy Poseidon's protection.

The sheeple have always been sold imaginary protection. They want to trust their government to love and protect them.

Umh's picture

What are the odds on being killed by an illegal immigrant?

mkkby's picture

Yep, the wide open borders are PROOF the war on terrorism is a deception.

logicalman's picture

Don't look now, but your bigotry is showing.

The Alarmist's picture

But to the point, the odds are likely to be higher than those for being killed by a native, whoever that might be.  Putting aside the political aspect of this, how are insurance underwriters supposed to incorporate this rapidly changing statistic into their premiums for coverage?

Duc888's picture




More importantly, you're more likely to be shot and killed by a FED, STATE or LOCAL LEO / government employee than a "terrorist".



jez's picture

But at the other end of the spectrum, I calculate that I am 57,388 times more likely to be killed by a terrorist than I am to read a sensible newspaper column by Professor Krugman.


How can I be expected to sleep, with an appalling statistic like that hanging over me?

pebblewriter's picture

"At least it wasn't terrorists" I texted from the back of the ambulance after falling out of bed.  That's when the lightning struck.

jez's picture

You were lucky. GM ambulance, was it?

Emergency Ward's picture

That's what you get for mocking the Terror State.

Comte d&#039;herblay's picture

As Comte has been iterating for nearly 20 years, the Only solution to the problems that beset the United States, created nearly entirely by the socio/psychopathic power mad narcissists (and the idiotic voters that reward them with 6-8-10 year terms, and then elect puppet POTUSes, All that infest government, the Only solution is:

...this. applied with extreme prejudice, across the entire United States would cut the power out from under all the cozy incestuous connections that have created an inbred, enclosed system wherein the People have been harnessed into impotence.

California, every good wish goes out to you who see the only salvation is a visit to the divorce attorney. 

shadescale's picture

Let the airlines take care of security; it's their customer base.

messymerry's picture

Again, you miss the point.  DHS/TSA is not here to protect us.  It's here to protect the hegemons...


chunga's picture

Lucky me I got the lightning thing out of the way and I'm still standing. phew

pebblewriter's picture

Right there with you.  Twice.

logicalman's picture

Stop wearing a full tinfoil suit!