What are the odds of dying in a terrorist attack? The answer is about 1 in 12-20 million, depending on the year and who you ask.
However, when asked to name the most common causes of death, many Americans include terrorism on the list. Actually, your odds of being killed in a terrorist attack are tiny, and in fact, you’re much more likely to be killed by a police officer than terrorism!
Things That Are More Likely to Kill You Than Terrorism
Some other causes of death that are much more likely to kill you than terrorism include:
- Brain-Eating Parasites
- Texting While Driving
- Toddlers (oops!)
- A Deer
- Falling Out of Bed
- Food Poisoning
- Choking On Food
- Bathtub accident
- Financial Crash
- Being crushed to death
- Medical Errors
- Autoerotic Asphyxiation
Time Magazine noted in 2013 that the chance of dying in a terrorist attack in the United States from 2007 to 2011, according to Richard Barrett – coordinator of the United Nations al Qaeda/Taliban Monitoring Team – was 1 in 20 million.
Let’s look at specific numbers …
The U.S. Department of State reports that only 17 U.S. citizens were killed worldwide as a result of terrorism in 2011.* That figure includes deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq and all other theaters of war.
In contrast, the American agency which tracks health-related issues – the U.S. Centers for Disease Control – rounds up the most prevalent causes of death in the United States:
Comparing the CDC numbers to terrorism deaths means:
- You are 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack
- You are 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack
- You are 4,706 times more likely to die from alcohol than terrorism
- About 34 Americans a year are killed by dog bites. That means you are twice as likely to die from a dog bite than a terrorist attack
Wikipedia notes that obesity is a contributing factor in 100,000–400,000 deaths in the United States per year. That makes obesity 5,882 to 23,528 times more likely to kill you than a terrorist.
A November, 2010, document from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services reported that, when in hospital, one in seven beneficiaries of Medicare (the government-sponsored health-care programme for those aged 65 years and older) have complications from medical errors, which contribute to about 180 000 deaths of patients per year.
That means you are 5,882 times more likely to die from medical error than terrorism.
You Are 50+ Times More Likely to Be Killed By a Police Officer Than a Terrorist
The Guardian reports today:
The first-ever attempt by US record-keepers to estimate the number of uncounted “law enforcement homicides” exposed previous official tallies as capturing less than half of the real picture. The new estimate – an average of 928 people killed by police annually over eight recent years, compared to 383 in published FBI data – amounted to a more glaring admission than ever before of the government’s failure to track how many people police kill.
That means that you’re 50+ times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist.
More Likely to Kill You Than a Terrorist Attack…
Wikipedia notes that there were 32,367 automobile accidents in 2011, which means that you are 1,904 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack. As CNN reporter Fareed Zakaria wrote last year:
“Since 9/11, foreign-inspired terrorism has claimed about two dozen lives in the United States. (Meanwhile, more than 100,000 have been killed in gun homicides and more than 400,000 in motor-vehicle accidents.) “
According to a 2011 CDC report, poisoning from prescription drugs is even more likely to kill you than a car crash. Indeed, the CDC stated in 2011 that – in the majority of states – your prescription meds are more likely to kill you than any other source of injury. So your meds are thousands of times more likely to kill you than Al Qaeda or Isis.
Since there were 596,339 deaths from heart disease in the U.S. in 2011, Americans are 2,245 times more likely to die from heart disease that a terrorist attack.
The number of deaths by suicide has also surpassed car crashes. Around 35,000 Americans kill themselves each year. So, you’re 2,059 times more likely to kill yourself than die at the hand of a terrorist. (WSJ)
Lightning Is Much More Likely to Kill You Than Terrorism
The odds of being killed by lightning is about 1 in 700,000. (source) This means you are about 20 times more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning than terrorism.
The CDC notes that there were 7,638 deaths from HIV and 45 from syphilis, so you’re 452 times more likely to die from risky sexual behavior than terrorism. (That doesn’t include death by autoerotic asphyxiation … discussed below.)
The National Safety Council reports that more than 6,000 Americans die a year from falls… most of them involve people falling off their roof or ladder trying to clean their gutters, put up Christmas lights, etc..
That means that you’re 353 times more likely to fall to your death doing something idiotic than die in a terrorist attack.
About 6,000 people die annually from texting or talking on the cellphone while driving. So you’re 353 times more likely to meet your maker while lol’ing than by terrorism.
The agency in charge of workplace safety – the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration – reports that 4,609 workers were killed on the job in 2011 within the U.S. homeland. In other words, you are 271 times more likely to die from a workplace accident than terrorism.
You’re More Likely to Die From Being Kinky Than Terrorism
Approximately 1,000 Americans die each year from autoerotic asphyxiation. So you’re 59 times more likely to kill yourself doing weird, kinky things than at the hands of a terrorist.
Nearly 400 Americans die each year due to drug allergies from penicillin. More than 200 deaths occur each year due to food allergies. Nearly 100 Americans die due to insect allergies. And 10 deaths each year are due to severe reactions to latex. See this.
There are many other types of allergies, but that totals 710 deaths each year from just those four types of allergies alone … making it 42 times more likely that you’ll die from an allergic reaction than from a terror attack.
Some 450 Americans die each year when they fall out of bed, 26 times more than are killed by terrorists.
Scientific American notes:
You might have toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by the microscopic parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which the CDC estimates has infected about 22.5 percent of Americans older than 12 years old
Toxoplasmosis is a brain-parasite. The CDC reports that more than 375 Americans die annually due to toxoplasmosis. In addition, 3 Americans died in 2011 after being exposed to a brain-eating amoeba. So you’re about 22 times more likely to die from a brain-eating zombie parasite than a terrorist.
The 2011 Report on Terrorism from the National Counter Terrorism Center notes that Americans are just as likely to be “crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year” as they are to be killed by terrorists.
The Jewish Daily Forward noted in May that – even including the people killed in the Boston bombing – you are more likely to be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. And see these statistics from CNN.
Odds of Being Killed By Terrorism In Context:
Here are your odds of being killed by terrorism compared to other more likely causes of death:
Mueller and Stewart noted that, in general, government regulators around the world view fatality risks—say, from nuclear power, industrial toxins or commercial aviation—above one person per million per year as “acceptable.” Between 1970 and 2007 Mueller and Stewart asserted in a separate paper published last year in Foreign Affairs that a total of 3,292 Americans (not counting those in war zones) were killed by terrorists resulting in an annual risk of one in 3.5 million.
Americans were more likely to die in an accident involving a bathtub (1 in 950,000), a home appliance (1 in 1.5 million), a deer (one in two million) or on a commercial airliner (1 in 2.9 million). [Let’s throw a couple more fun facts into the mix … The risk of choking to death on food is 1 in 4,404, and the risk of dying by falling out of furniture (including couches, chairs and beds) is 1 in 4,238.
So you’re almost a thousand times more likely to die from one of these rare causes of death than terrorism.
The global mortality rate of death by terrorism is even lower. Worldwide, terrorism killed 13,971 people between 1975 and 2003, an annual rate of 1 in 12.5 million.
Since 9/11 acts of terrorism carried out by Muslim militants outside of war zones have killed about 300 people per year worldwide. This tally includes attacks not only by al Qaeda but also by “imitators, enthusiasts, look-alikes and wannabes,” according to Mueller and Stewart.