What is the #1 killer of Americans? Terrorists? Immigrants? Muslims? Donald Trump? The Clintons? The GOP? Black Lives Matter? The Russians?
None of the statistics agree with any of these anxiety-ridden assumptions. The biggest threat to your person is your lifestyle, your thoughts, disease, and environmental factors.
Look, there’s a better chance of a person shooting themselves than being shot by a terrorist, mass shooter or homicidal maniac.
Below I took a look at the top 10 things that kill us here in America, what we focus on, and then look at an underreported topic: Suicide. I ask, why are we so scared, what is actually killing us, and what do we do?
Does kill count raise view count?
Trump, terrorists and shootings ramp up the viewership of media outlets. And entertainers, politicians and marketers know how to manipulate our brains to get us to tune into their shows and programs. No matter what your thoughts on Donald Trump’s intelligence, his use of persuasion tactics in the last election cycle was the reason he won: See here and here.
Our brains are meant to keep us alive, not to make us happy.
The psychological theory of Loss aversion tells us we have a “tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains: it’s better to not lose $5 than to find $5.”
In other words, it’s better to not die, than to die. It makes sense that brain would be wired to be on the lookout for things that might kill us in the future (anxiety), or a killer standing right in front of us (fear).
If news reports were conducted based on the death toll of the threats to Americans, the reports would be about suicide, cancer, car accidents, alzheimer’s or heart disease.
Perhaps rather than building our anxieties toward each other, which by means of consuming media that raises our anxieties actually trains us to be anxious, we might have more shows like Oprah and less sensationalist prime time entertainers.
Top 10 Leading Causes of Death to Americans from the CDC (2014):
- Heart disease: 614,348
- Cancer: 591,699
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 147,101
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 136,053
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 133,103
- Alzheimer’s disease: 93,541
- Diabetes: 76,488
- Influenza and pneumonia: 55,227
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 48,146
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 42,773
Suicides and Mass Shootings
It is worth bringing up that cute dogs, cows, and bees kill many more people than Jihadis.
And Americans are more likely to shoot themselves than they are to be shot by another. On average there are 121 suicides per day. In 50% of suicides a gun is used. That amounted to 22,018 of the 44,193 people who committed suicide in 2015.
By the numbers, suicide is a profoundly greater challenge for our society.
Suicide, and mental health in general, is a difficult topic to navigate. Through our schooling we are never given the tools to name our emotions. Unfortunately, we are left to do our own work when it comes to training the brain to help us.
It is easier to hype our anxieties about terrorists and economic collapse than it is to have a difficult conversation with our family members, friends and neighbors. It is our closest kin that are at most risk.
Not because of a conspiracy, but because of the natural state of our brain, and its exposure to the information age’s onslaught of anxiety.
Having awareness of our mind, emotions, and the courage to have a conversation about it are a starting point. Going on an information diet is another. Turn it off and hug your mom, dad, brother, sister, friend, girlfriend, and dog. Right now. And be careful about that dog, it is statistically dangerous.