Your Top 20 Fears (and How Much You Should Worry)




What’s the chance of getting struck by lightning in shark-infested waters while battling a serious bout of food poisoning? Who knows? But check out this list for the statistical risk of health issues ranging from HIV to panic attacks. (There’s a 100 percent chance #10 has happened to you.)





Dying from Food-Borne Illness (1 in 500) vs. Dying from Obesity (1 in 100)


Food poisoning: Take a tip from Snow White and don’t eat the (unwashed) apple. causes around 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths every year in the USA. That’s about 0.02 percent of the . The most common culprits include salmonella and listeria infections and toxoplasmosis. So unless you’re looking to get rid of houseguests, mind the sell-by date, refrigerate perishables, wash hands, and follow the rest of these guidelines to food safety.


Obesity: Looks like the risk of food poisoning isn’t stopping anyone from chowing down. As of 2010, about 33 percent of American adults were obese. And tight-fitting jeans aren’t the only problem: Obesity’s a risk factor for serious health issues like heart disease and . The National Institutes of Health attributes , or 1 percent of deaths in the USA each year, to obesity-related conditions. Some people are genetically predisposed to weight problems, but it’s to stay active and eat healthfully.





Getting Struck by Lightning (1 in 79,746) vs. Developing Skin Cancer (1 in 33)


Getting struck by lightning: Zeus doesn’t get angry often, but when he does, it’s scary. around 47 deaths each year in the USA, and the lifetime risk of being struck by a bolt is about 1 in 79,746. During thunderstorms, it’s a good idea to and save singin’ in the rain for a lightning-less sky.


Skin cancer: A nose tip full of zinc oxide may look funny, but it might also save a life. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the USA: The 81,240 new cases of skin cancer in 2012 (or 0.02 percent of the ) that will cause 12,190 deaths (that’s about 0.5 percent of deaths that occurred in 2009). And while skin cancer can be deadly, there are ways to seriously cut the risk, like avoiding tanning beds and wearing sunscreen. Other types of cancer are also dangerous, and Americans have roughly a 50 percent chance of developing cancer over the course of a lifetime. Steer clear of cigarettes and other that make the diagnosis way more likely.





Contracting HIV (1 in 1,000) vs. Getting Pregnant from Unprotected Sexual Intercourse (1 in 20)


HIV: The risk of through one-time, unprotected vaginal intercourse is about 1 in 1,000 for a woman, and less for a man. (There are to contract HIV, like using an infected needle, and the rates of infection for those modes of transmission may be higher.) The Centers for Disease Control estimates approximately 48,100 new cases of HIV infection occurred in 2009 in the USA. And about 16,500 to 18,000 die every year in the USA. Unprotected sex can also lead to , like chlamydia and gonorrhea, so know the best ways to stay safe and sexy.


Pregnancy: There’s nothing cuter than a baby— screaming and crying and peeing all night. The from sexual intercourse varies based on a woman’s menstrual cycle, but it’s usually anywhere from zero to nine percent. To avoid participating in the miracle of life, know the different .





Committing Suicide (1 in 10,000) vs. Having a Panic Attack (1 in 5)


Suicide: The 34,598 Americans took their own lives in 2007. That’s about per 100,000 people. And for every actual suicide, there are approximately . It can feel terrible to battle an emotional crisis alone— luckily, there are those who are struggling.


Panic attack: Whether it’s the sight of a snake or the switch to Facebook timeline, almost anything can trigger a panic attack. About six million Americans (or 19 percent of the current U.S. population) suffer from , and the disorder is twice as likely to affect women.





Dying in a House Fire (1 in 1,000) vs. Getting Cheated On (1 in 5)


Fire: Sean Kingston had one on the dance floor, but in real life fires can be fatal. In 2010, there were in the United States, in which 2,640 people died and 13,350 were injured (not including firefighters). That means approximately 0.1 percent of the U.S. population in 2009 died in a fire.  Go beyond stop, drop, and roll and learn how to in every home.


Getting cheated on: Love stings. Scientists found the pain of heartbreak isn’t so different from the feeling of a physical burn. And Americans need some fire extinguishers: About 22 percent of adults in monogamous relationships (and 28 percent of married men) say they’ve . Looks like Brangelina isn’t the only home-wrecker out there.





Sustaining a Concussion (1 in 5) vs. Suffering a Running Injury (2 in 3)


Concussion: Some sportsmen may be too eager to get a-head. Among high school athletes, the is about 17.5 percent. Snag a snazzy to protect those brain cells while out on the field.


Running injury: Don’t run the risk of injury. In , about two thirds of runners said they’d suffered an injury. Common ailments include and .





Shark Attack (1 in 60,453) vs. Drowning (1 in 1,134)


Shark attack: Jaws fans haven’t returned to the water since 1975, but the is actually 1 in 60,453. Still, it’s probably best to listen to the lifeguards and stay out of shark-infested waters.


Drowning: Though braved the waves, it’s important to take precautions on a nautical adventure. The is 1 in 1,134, so make sure to practice proper when flippin’ those fins.







Electrocution (1 in 1 million) vs. Heart Disease (1 in 5)


Electrocution: It’s electric— and it’s not just a way to boogie on the dance floor. In 1995, the in the USA was about 0.9 per million. Most of us know (hopefully) not to stick a fork in the toaster, but electrocutions can happen to anyone. So be careful— the Miss Frizzle hairdo is never in style.


Heart attack: Listen to your heart— because heart disease is the in the USA. The average American’s is around 1 in 5, and more than 150,000 Americans every year. But there are ways to , like avoiding smoking and staying physically active.







Getting Murdered (1 in 200) vs. Living to 100 (1 in 5)


Getting murdered: Whodunnit? In 2009, 13,636 homicides— that’s 0.6 percent of all deaths in the USA that year. Play it safe: Don’t walk alone at night or in deserted areas, and learn some other good


Living to 100: Is Tuck Everlasting more realistic than we thought? A recent British study found girls born in 2011 are eight times more likely to live a whole century than people born 80 years earlier. They also offer a way to calculate the individual chance of living to 100— someone who’s 20 now has about a 1 in 5 chance of making it.





Hitting the Lottery Jackpot (1 in 175,711,536) vs. Being Born (1 in 550,343,279,001)


Winning the lottery jackpot: Think before scratching— the (in New York State, at least) is 1 in 175,711,536. Perhaps the stock market’s a better investment… but hey, you never know.


Being born: Anyone who’s seen Back to the Future knows a single change in history could mean you never exist at all. In fact, there’s only a that someone will be born who is you exactly. That’s like hitting the jackpot more than 3,000 times (see above). Congratulations— you won!


Third and Sixth Photos: Bigstock

Which risk factors scare you the most? Tell us in the comments below!