When you worry about dying in an accident, what do you worry about? Earthquakes? Plane crashes? Terrorist attacks? Hurricanes? According to author Amanda Ripley, what we most worry about has nothing to do with what we are most at risk for.
What are the most common causes of accidental death?
1. automobile accidents
I'll be most people could have guessed number one. Two and three surprised me though. I have NEVER worried about being poisoned to death or dying by falling, at least not since I was a child and playing make-believe.
Ripley uses dread to explain the disconnect. And I'm over-simplifying a bit here in order to summarize, but here's a nifty equation she came up with to explain what is likely to scare us:
Dread = Uncontrollability + Unfamiliarity + Imaginability + Suffering + Scale of Destruction + Unfairness
Take an automobile accident for example: it's on a small scale, most likely; you have control because you can drive the vehicle; it's familiar to most of us; and when car crashes happen, they're quick, so the time for suffering is short.
Contrast that with a plane crash in which you wouldn't have control; it could be minutes between when the cause of a crash occurs and the plan actually crashes; the scale is usually much larger with many more deaths; and it's usually much more catastrophic in our imaginations.
So, even though it would be more rational to fear a car crash over a plane crash, many of us probably find the scales tipped the other way when it comes to anxiety.