Lower Your Risk of Death? Impossible!

OK — here’s a pet peeve — thought I’d share it with you on a late summer Friday …

Here’s what sparked it this morning:

Time Magazine Headline “Risk of Death”

And joining Time Magazine is MSNBC:


Or one more from MedicineNet – one of my favorite online health references:


So can you tell what bugs me? Here it is: Somehow the media is obsessed with telling us how we can lower, increase, or even “pinpoint” our risk of death, when in fact we have no way of influencing our risk of death at all!

No matter what you eat, or don’t eat, drink or don’t drink, participate in, or don’t participate in, you cannot affect your risk of death. You can’t increase it or decrease it because (like taxes, as they say) — your risk of death is always 100%.

Yup! 100% There’s not a thing we can do to influence that one way or the other. Truth is — there’s no risk involved at all!

Am I being picky? Probably. But in the spirit of accurate reporting, it seems like there might be better ways to phrase it.

What should they use instead? How about being more purposeful, such as “the ability to postpone death.” Another way, “postpone the onset of death.” Or if they are just dying to use the word “risk” (so to speak), they could use “the risk of earlier death.”

As I said — it’s just a pet peeve. BUT, I also think it ties in to our mentality and our attitudes. If what we are trying to do is stay healthier and we continually try to lower our “risk of death”, then truly, we may die earlier as a result of beating our heads against impossible odds. Even the bookies won’t touch that one.

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Posted in: Media, Patient Empowerment

Leave a Comment (2) ↓


  1. dxunknown August 25, 2007

    I always liked that quote, and forgive me for forgetting who said it, “My doctor tells me I have a terminal condition… its called life.”

  2. effusion August 29, 2007

    A statement that something may cause death or may be fatal usually gets the message across to me without goading a usage or accuracy peeve (I have several).

    I’ll have to start noticing how fatal risk is expressed in well-written pharmaceutical, medical, and scientific literature, and in well-written medical reporting when I can find it.