Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Risk Equivalencing

===> Understanding Risk by Bernard Cohen, 1990 <===

 Much good reading at the link shown above.  For example: Driving one hundred miles has an equivalent effect on average life expectancy as smoking four cigarettes (about 40 minutes reduction) and every extra pound of body weight reduces our life expectancy by an average of about a month.

While roughly 140,000 people are killed each year in job related accidents .PLUS. job related illnesses, it is even more dangerous to be unemployed and live in poverty.

The reader should be cautious about the assumed direction of causality.  Is life expectancy negatively impacted by being unemployed or might there be a shared, underlying cause like substance abuse, mental illness or poor health or obesity causing job loss and early mortality?

In some many cases there is correlation between the factors listed below.  Race, education level, smoking cigarettes, living in poverty, obesity, employment status, marital status and suboptimal access to medical care all have positive coefficients of correlation.  One cannot simply add LLE numbers.

Aside: Shepherds used to separate causes of lamb mortality into many causes but recently "lumped" the three biggest causes of lamb mortality into Starvation/Mismothering/Exposure.  Mismothering is the glue that joins the complex.  A good mother will bond with her lambs, will call to them and actively encourage them to fill their bellies with milk.  A good mother will stay with her lambs and shield them from weather if it is not possible to lead them to a more sheltered place.  It is academic to try to decide if a lamb might have survived a cold rain IF it had a full belly.  A good mother makes those decisions a moot point.

I propose that somebody develop a catchy phrase to describe the early mortality of antisocial people.  The best I can do is Western Culture Renunciation syndrome.  Avoid education, avoid work, avoid marriage, wallow in recreational drugs, sit on your butt....basically flip Western Culture the bird...and die young.

End Aside



Activity or risk*LLE (days)

Living in poverty3500

Being male (vs. female)2800

Cigarettes (male)2300

Heart disease*2100

Being unmarried2000

Being black (vs. white)2000

Socioeconomic status low1500

Working as a coal miner1100


30-lb overweight900

Grade school dropout800

Sub-optimal medical care*550


15-lb overweight450

All accidents*400

Vietnam army service400

Living in Southeast (SC,MS,GA,LA,AL)350

Mining construction (accidents only)320


Motor vehicle accidents180

Pneumonia, influenza*130

Drug abuse*100



Air pollution*80

Occupational accidents74


Small cars (vs. midsize)60

Married to smoker50


Speed limit: 65 vs. 55 miles per hour*40


Poison + suffocation + asphyxiation*37

Radon in homes*35

Fire, burns*27

Coffee: 2 cups/day26

Radiation worker, age 18-6525


Birth control pills5

All electricity nuclear (UCS)*1.5

Peanut butter (1 Tbsp./day)1.1

Hurricanes, tornadoes*1

Airline crashes*1

Dam failures*1

Living near nuclear plant0.4

All electricity nuclear (NRC)*0.04
*Asterisks indicate averages over total U.S. population; others refer to those exposed.

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