Crunching The Numbers On Mortality

One of the key traits that make human beings unique on planet Earth is that we’re aware of our own mortality.

But, as Visual Capitalist's Nick Routley notes, scientific advances have given us insight into which behaviors may prolong life, and which activities carry the greatest risk of death. Naturally, there have been some unique attempts to create a unified structure around risk and benefit, and to quantify every aspect of the human lifespan.

As today’s graphic from TitleMax demonstrates, even when we’re thinking about death, the human desire to codify the world around us is alive and well.

Courtesy of: Visual Captitalist

MORTALITY UNITS

Certain events – such as a parachute failing to open or being hit by a meteor – have an easily quantifiable effect on life, but how do we measure the riskiness of day-to-day habits and situations? This is where a unique unit of measurement, micromorts, comes into play.

This concept, invented by renowned decision analyst Ronald A. Howard, helps compare any number of potentially lethal risks. One micromort equals a one in a million chance of sudden death. Here’s the riskiness of various activities measured in micromorts:

LIFE UNITS

The average person, by the time they reach adulthood, will live approximately one million half-hours. Those 30 minute units are known as microlives.

The microlife concept was invented by professor David Spiegelhalter as a way to measure the consequences of various behaviors. For example, 20 minutes of physical activity earns us two microlives, while watching TV for two hours subtracts one microlife.

This measurement extends beyond nutrition and eating habits. Simply living in a modern era earns us an additional 15 microlives per day compared to those who lived a century earlier.

CASTING THE DIE ON HOW WE’LL DIE

How will the estimated 353,000 humans that will be born today eventually meet their end? This was the thought experiment conducted by Reddit user, Presneeze.

While our focus is often drawn to people who meet their end in spectacular and tragic ways, the vast majority of humanity will succumb to conditions such as heart disease and cancer.

Geography can play a big role in shifting these odds:

  • In the United States, which is grappling with an opioid addiction crisis, there is a 1-in-96 chance of dying from a drug overdose.

  • Diarrheal diseases may not be on the radar of most people living in first world countries, but in developing regions, they remain a leading cause of preventable death – particularly for children.

  • In Russia, the odds are 1-in-4 that a man will not live beyond 55 years. The main culprit? Vodka.

"On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."

–'Tyler Durden' via Chuck Palahniuk