We noted in 2011:
Let’s look at some details from the most recent official statistics.
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:
(Note: Keep in mind when reading this entire piece that we are consistently and substantially understating the risk of other causes of death as compared to terrorism, because we are comparing deaths from various causes within the United States against deaths from terrorism worldwide.)
The annual number of deaths in the U.S. due to avoidable medical errors is as high as 100,000.
Indeed, one of the world’s leading medical journals - Lancet - reported in 2011:
That’s just Medicare beneficiaries, not the entire American public.
Scientific American noted in 2009:
But let’s use the lower - 100,000 - figure. That still means that you are 5,882 times more likely to die from medical error than terrorism.
As CNN reporter Fareed Zakaria writes this week:
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.
The number of deaths by suicide has also surpassed car crashes, and many connect the increase in suicides to the downturn in the economy. Around 35,000 Americans kill themselves each year (and more American soldiers die by suicide than combat; the number of veterans committing suicide is astronomical and under-reported).
So you’re 2,059 times more likely to kill yourself than die at the hand of a terrorist.
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 and the like. That means that you’re 353 times more likely to fall to your death doing something idiotic than die in a terrorist attack.
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.
Scientific American notes:
Toxoplasmosis is a brain-parasite. The CDC reports that more than 375 Americans die annually due to toxoplasmosis.
There were at least 155 Americans killed by police officers in the United States in 2011. That means that you were more than 9 times more likely to be killed by a law enforcement officer than by a terrorist.
And 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.
Let’s switch to 2008, to take advantage of another treasure trove of data.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, 33 U.S. citizens were killed worldwide in 2008 from terrorism. There were 301,579,895 Americans living on U.S. soil in 2008, so the risk of dying from terrorist attacks in 2008 was 1 in 9,138,785.
This graphic from the National Safety Council - based upon 2008 data - shows the relative risks of dying from various causes:
If the risk of being killed by a terrorist were added to the list, the dot would be so small that it would be hard to see.
Specifically, the risk of being killed by terrorism in 2008 was 14 times smaller than being killed by fireworks.
Reason provides some more examples:
Terrorism pushes our emotional buttons. And politicians and the media tend to blow the risk of terrorism out of proportion.
But as the figures above show, terrorism is a very unlikely cause of death.