Saturday, 7 January 2017

Micromorts: The Risk Of Dying

Caution: If you suffer from thanatophobia (fear of death), discretion is advised before reading this article!


Fighting with a light sabre has a rating of 187,500 micromorts.
2016 was a memorable year in many ways; Leicester's incredible Premier League win, a new Star Wars movie, and of course the release of 'Crime Doesn't Pay', my collection of crime themed short stories (available for kindle from Amazon).

However, it was also a scary and sobering year in the way that so many celebrities seemed to die.  It's a morbid thing to think about, but it's also a reminder of how temporary life is, and to take a positive approach, it's a reminder of how we should make the most of every day because you never know how long you've got left.

Believe it or not, there's actually a statistical unit which is a measurement of the risk of dying called the micromort.  A micromort is a one in a million chance of death, so for example if an activity has a rating of 1 micromort that means there's a relatively small one in a million chance of dying, whereas a rating of 1,000,000 micromorts would mean certain death.

Here are some micromort ratings for a variety of activities, from just living your life, to more dangerous pursuits...

1) Living = 24 micromorts per day


When you wake up every morning, there's on average a chance of 24 micromorts that you will die that day.  That might sound quite scary, but if you're a glass half full type of person then it equates to a 99.9976% chance that you won't die each day!  That's sounds like pretty good odds to me.

The figures relate to England and Wales, and are an average throughout the population, but the figures obviously vary dramatically depending on factors such as general health and age.  For example, the average 18 year old male has a 1 micromort chance of dying each day, whereas a 90 year old man has a 463 micromort chance of dying each day.  At first glance those figures seem to suggest it's extremely dangerous to be a 90 year old man, but in actual fact a 90 year old man still has a 99.95% chance of not dying each day!

Don't try this at home!
Dancing on top of an aeroplane during a skydive
is estimated to have a risk of 1,000,000 micromorts.
The full chart based on age is as follows:

18 years old = 1 (male) / 0.5 (female)
30 years old = 2 (m) / 1 (f)
45 years old = 6 (m) / 4 (f)
60 years old = 23 (m) / 15 (f)
75 years old = 105 (m) / 69 (f)
90 years old = 463 (m) / 381 (f)

The figures are approximate and vary slightly from source to source, but it's safe to say that nature has definitely given women the better deal!



2) Hang-gliding = 8 micromorts per hang-glide


Hang-gliding is perceived as quite a dangerous sport to do, but apparently it's actually 3 times safer than living for 24 hours!



3) Skydiving


The risk of dying from a skydive varies from country to country...

UK = 8 micromorts per skydive
US = 9 micromorts per skydive
Germany = 18.55 micromorts per skydive

So if you're going to do a skydive, do it in the UK!



Wow!  That's a lot of micromorts!

4) Running a marathon = 7 micromorts per marathon


Apparenly, running a marathon is actually almost as risky as skydiving!  That doesn't tell the full story though, because of course if you train properly for a marathon then there are health benefits which will reduce your daily micromort figure.



5) Horse-riding = 0.5 micromorts


The first time I went horse riding I remember one girl telling me how she'd done it loads of times and it was perfectly safe, then a few minutes later her horse got angry and threw her off!  Luckily she was okay, probably because horse riding is a relatively safe activity at only 0.5 micromorts per horse-ride.



A fish.

6) Scuba diving = 5 micromorts per dive


Serious bit: The figure rises to 10 micromorts for non-BSAC* members, which illustrates the importance of proper training and supervision from qualified instructors.

* British Sub-Aqua Club



7) Base jumping = 430 micromorts


Unsurprisingly, base jumping is a very dangerous activity, but at least it's safer than being a 90 year old man!



Mountains.

8) Climbing a mountain in the Himalayas = 12,000 micromorts per climb


If you climb above 8,000 metres in the Himalayas, you have a 1 in 83 chance of dying.



9) Climbing to the summit of Mount Everest = 40,000 micromorts per climb


The most dangerous activity on this list is climbing Mount Everest at 40,000 micromorts per climb.  That equates to a one in 25 chance of dying!  Scary!  Or to look at it another way, climbing Mount Everest is only four times less dangerous than playing Russian Roulette!

* Russian Roulette has a risk factor of 166,667 micromorts.



If you want another way to visualise the concept of micromorts, then imagine a large pool containing one million red balls.  Then swap one of those red balls for a blue ball.

If an 18 year old male was to pick out a ball at random, his chances of picking the blue ball are the same as his chances of dying each day.

Plastic balls can be used to visualise the concept of micromorts.
For a 90 year old man, the pool would contain 463 blue balls.

And for a mountaineer climbing to the summit of Mount Everest, the pool would contain 40,000 blue balls!


As a final acknowledgement, Ronald A. Howard was the scientist who first came up with the concept of micromorts, and his motivation for inventing the micromort scale was to give us a less scary way of looking at risk.  However, I have to say in my case he's probably had the opposite effect, because after looking at the figures above there's no way I'd ever climb Mount Everest!*

Although actually, if I'm honest, I have to admit that 'climbing Mount Everest' wasn't at the top of my 'Things to do list' even before I learnt about micromorts, so to be fair, it hasn't really prompted a radical lifestyle rethink.


Once again, in my opinion it's best to be a 'glass half full' type of person, so focus on the red balls rather than the blue balls!  And even if you're a 90 year old man, remember that you've got a 99.95% chance of not dying each day!  Or to look at it another way, the glass is 99.95% full!


Sources:
http://theconceptofmicromorts.com/ 
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120302-extreme-sports-a-risky-business
http://www.sciencealert.com/this-unit-of-measurement-figures-out-how-likely-you-are-to-die-from-certain-activities
https://plus.maths.org/content/os/issue55/features/risk/index
http://understandinguncertainty.org/micromorts

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The 'How To Save The World' books
by Charles Fudgemuffin
Charles Fudgemuffin is the author of the alien comedy 'How To Save The World' books which are available for Kindle from Amazon.  The first book in the series is available from the following link:
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