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Fear of death is often irrational. provides a list of some of those common, yet unfounded, causes of death that are most feared … yet least likely to occur.

At the end of the article the most common causes of death are listed. Most of these causes stem from our own, modifiable behaviors.

Airplane crashes: Some 30 million Americans describe themselves as “anxious” flyers. What makes them anxious is the fear of dying in a plane crash. What’s the actual risk of being involved in a fatal airline accident? According to Arnold Barnett, a statistical expert in the field of aviation safety, it’s once every 19,000 years–and that is only provided the person flew on an airplane once a day for 19,000 years!

Shark attacks: Do you refuse to go near the movie Jaws for fear that you’ll never go back in the water? You’re not alone, as many Americans fear getting killed by a shark.

According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), though, only 1,909 confirmed shark attacks have occurred around the world–between 1580 and 2003! Of these, 737 happened in the United States, and 38 people died as a result. That said, what are your real odds of being attacked by a shark? One in 11.5 million, says the ISAF. Being killed by a shark? Zero in 264.1 million.

Being murdered: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one person is murdered about every 60 seconds worldwide, and in 2000, an estimated 520,000 people were murdered in the world. Although this sounds like a lot, let us put things into perspective: In 2000, over 6 million people died of cancer.

Actual Leading Causes of Death

Biggest fears aside, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that uncovered the actual leading causes of death in the United States (in 2000). Overwhelmingly, these causes stem from our own, modifiable behaviors.

Tobacco (435,000 deaths, 18.1 percent of total U.S. deaths)

Poor diet and physical inactivity (400,000 deaths, 16.6 percent)

Alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths, 3.5 percent)

Microbial agents (75,000)

Toxic agents (55,000)

Motor vehicle crashes (43,000)

Incidents involving firearms (29,000)

Sexual behaviors (20,000)

Illicit use of drugs (17,000)

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