About 150,000 people die every day. Here's a visual breakdown of the causes

Originally published at: About 150,000 people die every day. Here's a visual breakdown of the causes | Boing Boing


If only we rationally allocated resources based on the actual proportions of the threats, instead of pouring everything into terrorism, an essentially nonexistent danger. :confused:


Just a note for people who don’t read the source information at the bottom, they are using relatively old Covid data for their graphic. The current daily numbers globally are running somewhere in the range of 12k+ depending on how long you average over. Most reasonable averaging windows would solidly move it into the third leading cause of death.


I need to hang this up around my house to remind myself to eat better and exercise more. It’s rather awesome that the blue items look like overripe blueberries about to pop. Very apt.


They omit the blanket “natural causes” as a cause of death.
(I know that “natural cause” can be fit into any of their aforementioned categories, but sometimes it is necessary to call that a “normal exit” and without any external cause. I mean, short of any obvious trauma, the death of a 97 year old will often not lead to any deep investigation as to cause.)


Who would have thought that blueberries are the number one cause of death, with cranberries as a close second and in third place… rabbit poop?

This information analysis brought to you by Facebook.


road injury the number one cause of death that isn’t disease.

cars are cages.

cars are coffins.


What do you suppose the difference is between Homicide (1,111) and “Conflict” (355)?

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( war is not five characters )


philosophers have debated that for centuries


This. But it’s not just terrorism. I’ve worked in public policy roles for the last three decades and if there’s one thing that consistently gets up my nose is when people, often in policy roles, say “you can’t put a price on a human life” (in my domain it’s usually road safety).

The problem is not that “you can’t put a value on human life”; it’s that every fricken government agency does put a value on human life because you have to so you can compare interventions. But because it happens secretly and because it’s not acknowledged publicly, the values are different. In transport every life saved has a value. In health prevention every life saved has a value. Are they the same? Sometimes; sometimes not.

But even then as you point out, there’s a huge emotional value to some risks. In Aus some states spend a shirt-load of money on shark nets that kill endangered sharks and save perhaps a handful of lives every year. Divert that money into anti-smoking messages and there’s evidence you’d save many, many more lives for the same expenditure.

The ickiness we feel when talking about death, and what it’s worth to prevent deaths, is actually costing lives because we spend money on scary stuff, as opposed to dangerous stuff. We need to have these conversations.


The source (“Visual Capitalist”) also appears to have a number of charts examining the Covid-19 pandemic through a rather—shall we say—market-focused perspective, so it’s not so surprising that they’d present data in such a way as to suggest that the response to the pandemic might be disproportionate to the threat.

I’m also going to have to nitpick the way the graphic was designed. Those colored blobs are shaded in such a way to suggest values represented as spherical volumes rather than flat areas, so (for example) the sphere marked “cancers” would contain a volume well over three times the volume of the sphere marked “respiratory diseases.” It’s the sort of graphic where your brain is going to take away a different impression than what the numbers are telling you.


I dispute these findings. I would argue that 99% of people die due to the cessation of brain activity, which is in turn due either to the physical destruction of the brain or a persistent lack of oxygen to the brain.

The other 1%?

It’s always worth considering, but I don’t think that is the reason for that choice. The chart had really fresh data at the time, but the chart itself is about 9 months old. It was posted back in May 2020. It just resurfaced due to net churn.

Early in the pandemic, around the main US lockdown period I was constantly having that discussion about the cost of reopening. There’s a certain streak in our discourse that treats accepting deaths for economic value as just being rational, so I would ask for the estimates and make them run the numbers or run them for them. How many extra deaths per dollar of retained economic output. How are they valuing used sick time, disability adjusted work years, and the impact of funeral costs on discretionary spending? Without fail they had no estimate and didn’t want a discussion grounded in numbers.


Yeah that makes sense. I guess it’s not considered murder when sanctioned by the state.

Planet Money did a great episode on this topic. Of course we put monetary value on life all the time. It’s impossible not to with the decisions we make, so the choices are that we put a price on life blindly, or we do it with careful analysis. Much better to do the latter so we can allocate resources efficiently.


The podcast above discusses this as well. The problem is not that we’re comparing economic loss from shutdown to human loss from virus. The problem is that people making the economic arguments vastly undervalue a human life. If you accept Planet Money’s numbers, spending 10 trillion dollars in the US alone to keep everyone at home is basically a no brainer. The value of those lives saved in cold hard economic impact (no pesky liberal empathy required) pays back way more than that. However it requires rational long term thinking to accept this, something people are really bad at.

That’s what drives me crazy about these arguments. The people arguing “OMG teh economee” aren’t wrong because they’re immoral and devoid of empathy (though they usually are that too). Accepting their purported stoic rationalism, they are still wrong, even by their own methods.


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