What Are the Odds?

The whole insurance business is a numbers game, based on the odds of something happening… or not happening. Probabilities. Statistics. Tables. The average life expectancy for U.S. adults is currently 77.2 years. It’s 74.4 for males and 79.8 for females. It also varies by race and other factors. In 1900, the average life expectancy was 47.3 years. Imagine having a mid-life crisis at 23.5!

In this article we’re going to take a quick look at what are the odds, and more importantly, at what you can do right now to improve them.

What Are the Odds?

Q. Let’s start with an easy one, but one most of us would rather not answer: What are the odds that you’re going to die?

A. 1 in 1. 100%. You know, that whole death and taxes thing… inevitable.

Q. How does this compare to winning the lottery?

A. Your chances of winning big in the lottery are somewhere between 1 in 7 million and 1 in 80 million, depending on the game and number of players. Translation: you are slightly more likely to win the lottery than you are to live forever. But only slightly.

Q. What are the odds that you’ll die by accident or injury?

A. 1 in 23. That means that you’re much more likely to die of natural causes. Listed below are the odds of just a few of the many possible ways someone can die:

Cause Odds
Heart Disease 1 in 2.6
Cancer 1 in 4
Suicide 1 in 121
Homicide 1 in 182
Car Accident 1 in 247
Death by Fire/Smoke 1 in 1,116
Accidental Drowning 1 in 1,126
Motorcycle Accident 1 in 1,204
Airplane Accident 1 in 4,023
Drowning in Bathtub 1 in 11,469
Lightning Strike 1 in 83,930
Bee Sting 1 in 85,882
Bus Accident 1 in 99,809
Train Accident 1 in 142,036
Dog Bite 1 in 147,717
Snake Bite 1 in 527,561
Fireworks Accident 1 in 615,488

Q. Does this mean that motorcycles are safer than cars?

A. Absolutely not! It just means that fewer people ride on motorcycles than in cars. Per mile driven, motorcyclists are 35 times more likely to die in an accident than are people riding in cars.

Q. What are the leading causes of death among all people in the U.S.?


Cause Odds
Heart Disease 29.0%
Cancer 23.0%
Stroke 7.0%
Respiratory Disease 5.0%
Accident/Injury 4.0%
Diabetes 3.0%
Influenza 3.0%
Alzheimer’s 2.0%
Kidney Disease 2.0%
Infection 1.0%
Suicide 1.0%
Liver Disease 1.0%
Homicide 0.8%
Hypertension 0.8%
Pneumonia 0.7%
All Others 17.0%

Q. How about for 15-24 year olds?


Cause Odds
Accident/Injury 52%
Homicide 21%
Suicide 16%
Cancer 7%
Heart Disease 4%

This final set of numbers is a bit disturbing, but keep in mind that most young people don’t die. But those that do, are much more likely to die of non-natural causes.

How to Improve Your Odds

Enough with the numbers! Here are some of the main things you can do right now to improve your odds of living longer:

  • If you smoke, stop smoking. Easier said than done, but consider this: 26% of smokers live to age 80 compared to 57% of non-smokers. Smokers are 50% more likely to die from a smoking-related illness than from an automobile accident. The average smoker lives 22.5 years less than the average non-smoker. You get the picture.
  • Don’t drink and drive. 50% of all motor vehicle accidents involve alcohol.
  • Take simple precautions to prevent injury: seatbelts, helmets, air bags, etc.
  • Adopt healthy lifestyle habits: eat right, exercise regularly, brush, floss, wash hands, get enough sleep-all the things your mother (and doctor) tell you.
  • Seek professional primary care when needed.

Bottom line, you’re going to die at some point, but taking steps like these will improve both the quantity—and quality—of your life. That’ll give you a chance to see more sunrises, laugh at more jokes, spend more time with loved ones—and buy more lottery tickets. Gotta love those odds.

Life Expectancy Rates


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