If You Could Only Die in Sudden Accidents, How Long Would You Live?

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Imagine a world in which the only possible way to die was through a sudden accident, such as a car crash, falling down the stairs, or getting struck by lighting. How long could we expect to live in such a world? According to an eye-opening simulation, a very, very, long time, indeed.

The fine folks at data site Polstats recently conducted a thought experiment in which they pretended that paradigm-changing medical and social breakthroughs were able to eliminate all “natural” causes of death, such as cancer, heart attacks, and all age-related diseases. Using data pulled from the Insurance Information Institute, Polstats put together a super cool simulation of 100 humans living in such a world.

As the visualization shows, life expectancy in the US would increase from an average of 78 years to a whopping 8,938 years. And that’s just on average. In a world of such slim probabilities, life expectancy for a fortunate few can reach upwards of 30,000 years or longer (in one of the simulations we ran, the 100th death didn’t occur until after 45,641 years).


In a world free of all natural causes of death, the only way we’d die is through car crashes, drownings, homicides, fires, and so forth. As the visualization makes clear, the vast majority of us would be killed in a car crash (0.011 percent of all causes of death), with assault by firearms a distant second (0.0035 percent of all causes of death). Fires, stairs falls, and drowning account for the other most common forms of accidental deaths.


Needless to say, this simulation makes a lot of assumptions. Given just how many ways there are to croak—both “natural” and “unnatural”—this is a very short list of ways to die. It assumes we’ve not only cured all known diseases, we’ve cured age-related diseases we don’t even know about yet (perhaps there are some diseases that wouldn’t afflict us until we’re several centuries old?). It also assumes that deaths resulting from childbirth, starvation, and malnutrition have been eliminated. Lastly, it assumes a certain status quo in the United States, and that some unexpected war or pandemic doesn’t wipe out the bulk of humanity.

Those caveats aside, the exercise reminds us that we’ll all have to shed our mortal coils at some point. It may take a while, but eventually something out there will kill us.


[Polstats via FlowingData]