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What are the odds of dying?

The table below was prepared in response to frequent inquiries, especially from the media, asking questions such as, "What are the odds of being killed by lightning?" or "What are the chances of dying in a plane crash?"

The table has four columns. The first column gives the manner of injury such as motor-vehicle crash, fall, fire, etc. The second column gives the total number of deaths nationwide due to the manner of injury in 2002 (the latest year for which data are available). The third column gives the odds of dying in one year due to the manner of injury. The fourth column gives the lifetime odds of dying from the manner of injury. Statements about the odds or chances of dying from a given cause of death may be made as follows:

  • The odds of dying from (manner of injury) in 2002 were 1 in (value given in the one-year odds column).
  • The life-time odds of dying from (manner of injury) for a person born in 2002 were 1 in (value given in the lifetime odds column).

For example, referring to the first line of the table below:

  • The odds of dying from an injury in 2002 were 1 in 1,755.
  • The lifetime odds of dying from an injury for a person born in 2002 were 1 in 23.

The odds given below are statistical averages over the whole U.S. population and do not necessarily reflect the chances of death for a particular person from a particular external cause. Any individual's odds of dying from various external causes are affected by the activities in which they participate, where they live and drive, what kind of work they do, and other factors.

Source: National Safety Council estimates based on data from National Center for Health Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau. Deaths are classified on the basis of the Tenth Revision of the World Health Organization's "The International Classification of Diseases" (ICD). Numbers following titles refer to External Cause of Morbidity and Mortality classifications in ICD-10. One year odds are approximated by dividing the 2002 population (287,941,220) by the number of deaths. Lifetime odds are approximated by dividing the one-year odds by the life expectancy of a person born in 2002 (77.3 years).

Odds of Death Due to Injury, United States, 2002

Type of Accident or Manner of Injury Deaths One Year Odds Lifetime Odds
    Nontransport Unintentional (Accidental) Injuries, W00-X59, Y86 58,376 4,933 64
    Falls, W00-W19 16,257 17,712 229
      Fall on same level from slipping, tripping, and stumbling, W01 646 445,729 5,766
      Other fall on same level, W00, W02-W03, W18 3,610 79,762 1,032
      Fall involving bed, chair, other furniture, W06-W08 785 366,804 4,745
      Fall on and from stairs and steps, W10 1,598 180,188 2,331
      Fall on and from ladder or scaffolding, W11-W12 406 709,215 9,175
      Fall from out of or through building or structure, W13 557 516,950 6,688
      Other fall from one level to another, W09, W14-W17 766 375,902 4,863
      Other and unspecified fall, W04-W05, W19 7,889 36,499 472

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