The fear of falling is so ingrained into human consciousness that it's become standard nightmare fare, along with clowns, tooth loss and pantless spelling bees. And it's no wonder: Our half-monkey ancestors probably broke plenty of necks falling from tree limbs back in the day. For those of us who aren't cast members of Jackass, a fear of falling is as healthy a fear as anything else on this list.
But how likely is it that falling from a high place is what actually kills you? Not very. Turns out, you have about a 1 in 5,486 chance of being killed by a fall from a high place in your lifetime, which ends up being only about 700 people a year.
Stay away from Stallone and you'll be fine.
What You Should be Afraid of:
Falling out of your chair.
Falls involving a chair, bed, or tripping over other furniture kill about 200 more people every year than falls from a significant height. Which gives you a 1 in 4,238 chance of death by ground floor slippage. Now, to be fair, those statistics are pretty much counting on one thing: that you're old and frail, because the likelihood of dying by clumsiness increases substantially the older you get. Old bones are brittle bones, and the sad truth is you could probably kill your grandma by blinking hard enough in her direction.
And then the money is all yours.
Still, over the course of your life, it makes more sense to be scared of the coffee table than the observation deck of the Willis Tower. It's far more likely to be what gets you in the end.
If you find yourself among the 40 percent of people who have some anxiety about flying or the 6.5 percent of people who are so terrified of it that they refuse to fly at all, there's a good chance that nothing we say in the next few paragraphs is going to be much comfort to you. Not when the media love playing out your worst nightmare like a fat kid loves cake.
They feed on your fear.
And certainly not when flying combines some of our biggest pet fears: heights, small spaces, luggage fees and would-be shoe bombers. So it's no wonder that most of us tense up when our planes hit a little turbulence. Which is weird, because the fact is that dying in a plane crash is incredibly unlikely; only about 1 in 5,862, or less than 700 people a year.
What You Should be Afraid of:
Crashing your bike.
Those horns won't stop that Buick.
You have a 1 in 4,147 chance of being in a fatal bicycle accident, which is about 900 people a year. While airplanes are built to strict FAA safety regulations and getting a pilot's license takes hundreds of flight hours, learning to ride a bike just takes patient parents and an allowance.
And it turns out that most fatal bike accidents are usually not the cyclist's fault at all. New York City discovered a few years back that 90 percent of fatal bicycle accidents were the motorists' fault. The only traffic hazards an airplane has to deal with are birds, other planes and overreaching superheroes.
It's hard to believe now, but nuclear energy was once a pretty promising and popular form of power. For a while in the 1950s, the design world was smitten with the atomic aesthetic, and everything kind of took on this spacey, futuristic look. Even toys got in on atomic energy fever:
Nuclear energy was literally all fun and games until a few meltdowns burst our atomic dream bubble. By the time Three Mile Island had its partial meltdown, most of the American public was terrified of powering even a toaster with something so insanely dangerous. From Three Mile on, it became so difficult to sell the public on nuclear energy that no new power plants have been built in the U.S. in 30 years.
Here's the thing, though. No one died as a result of the Three Mile Island disaster. No one even got injured or sick. The radiation released was the equivalent of one-sixth of a chest X-ray. In fact, even with nuclear power plants still in operation in the United States today, you and everyone who works in them still effectively have a 0 percent chance of dying from radiation poisoning.
While people did die at Chernobyl, and many people got sick, poor design and safety violations were so egregious and numerous that the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group published a 148-page report in 1993 detailing every possible thing that went wrong and how it could have been easily fixed. That doesn't change the fact that everyone around the accident got massively screwed in a big way, of course, but it seems that our initial estimates of the long-term damage of a nuclear event may have been exaggerated.
You call that a meltdown?
What You Should be Afraid of:
Every other source of energy.
For example, coal kills more miners every few years than the initial blast at Chernobyl. This, of course, doesn't take into account air pollution from coal, which dwarfs those numbers yearly. But come on, that's not really surprising, is it? We know coal is bad for us -- that's why we're developing all these great green forms of energy. They're renewable and better for the environment.
Unfortunately, they're actually not necessarily safer than nuclear energy for those involved in producing them. A study found that in Europe alone, wind energy has killed more people than nuclear energy and, worldwide, hydroelectric energy has, too.
The leading cause of accidents involving wind energy farms is "blade failure," which is when a turbine blade breaks, sending shrapnel flying through the air.
With hydroelectric, of course, you get disasters and floods related to the dams.
Are we saying nuclear energy is the end-all, be-all next great power source? Is this article sponsored by a nuclear power conglomerate? Not as far as we know. We're just saying that sometimes it seems like we decide what we are going to be afraid of by drawing randomly from a hat.
To read more of Ashe's work, check out weirdshitblog.com.
And check out more things you should be scared of in 5 Bizarre Ways the Weather Can Kill You Without Warning and 5 Cosmic Events That Could Kill You Before Lunch.
And stop by Linkstorm to learn how to protect yourself from those deadly stairs.
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