You Are Worrying About the Wrong Things

No, you are not going to die from Ebola.

To quote a wag on Twitter, “More Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from Ebola.”

But the latest scare does have a small positive: It provides me with yet another opportunity to lecture you about how incredibly dumb your lizard brain is. (It’s also an opportunity to castigate the media for turning a minuscule threat into a full-blown conflagration, but that’s shooting fish in a barrel).

How serious is the danger of Ebola infection?

Despite the nonstop media coverage, it’s important to note that this doesn’t matter to 99.999 percent of Americans. Back in May, we noted the things that are most likely to kill you — or your investments — are not the things most of us typically obsess about.

We fear the awesome predatory perfection of the great white shark, and have made the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” “the longest-running cable television programming event in history.” This seems somewhat disproportionate, given that 10 people a year die from shark attacks — out of more than 7 billion people. If you want to fear a living creature, than logic suggests it’s the mosquito — they kill more human beings than any other animal on the planet. Man, be it through wars or murder or wanton disregard or simple benign neglect, comes in a distant second.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, unintentional injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide. (That was for 2012, the most recent year we have complete data for.)

We seem to be much more concerned about things like terrorism than we are mundane things like heart disease, cancer or car accidents. Yet those three were in the top 10, while more Americans were killed by toddlers than by terrorists.

 

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