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Reducing My Chance Of Death

August 15th, 2011
preparedness  [html]
I've thought a decent amount about what I can be doing to reduce death/injury/suffering in general, but not as much as it applies to myself and people around me. Because I've not thought about it, there are probably some simple things I could be doing that would improve my chances significantly. My yearly chance of death is currently around 0.13%, which is pretty good. [1] Most likely causes are traffic accidents (0.025%), suicide (0.021%), poisonings (0.020%), and violence (0.019%), which account for two thirds of my chance of death. [2] There's a lot of things that can kill you, though, so there's a long tail. There also are probably things I could do now to reduce my long term death chances -- heart disease is unlikely to kill me now, but for 50 year olds it's in the number one spot.

Other things could go wrong, though. There could be a natural disaster, an economic collapse, rioting, war, nuclear terroism. I don't have a good sense of how likely these are. Do they have anywhere near 0.1% chance of killing me in a year?

Places like ready.gov or the red cross have suggestions for what I should do to be more prepared for disasters. Some of the things they suggest, like keeping several gallons of fresh water around and some canned food, are cheap and very easy to prepare. Others, like a weather radio, are more expensive.

Reading the wikipedia page on survivalism, it looks like a lot of people approach it by subscribing to a very specific theory about what will go wrong and need surviving, and then figure out how to survive that. So they buy gold, learn self defense, or store decades of food. This makes sense to me: I like to geek out about things, and it's a lot easier to do that in detail preparing for a specific threat than preparing a little bit for a lot of threats. But I suspect the latter is more effective.

There are tons of people writing about what you should eat and what supplements you should take to maximize your lifetime, but they don't seem to agree at all or have very good evidence.

Julia thought less wrong might have "how not to die" or something [3], but I couldn't find anything.

My college roommate, david [4], told me that a reason he is generally cautious is that he intends to live forever, and part of that is living long enough for life extension technology and saving enough to be able to afford it. I don't know if he still has this approach, but if so I should ask him what he does differently in living his life because of this. I'm also not sure how much general caution gets you.

So: I think there should be a project to determine the most cost (in time as well as money) effective things you can do to extend your life. Things that might go on this list, in no particular order:

  • excercise
  • nutrition
  • avoiding driving
  • avoiding violent situations
  • going to the doctor for checkups
  • avoid stress
  • learn emergency first aid
  • quit smoking
  • sign up for cryonics
  • learn some kind of survival skills
  • store lots of food/water/gold/metal
  • marry
  • meditate
  • avoid areas prone to natural disasters
Some of these might be hundreds of times more effective than others. I'm not sure which ones. Has someone already done this research? I'm not looking to put huge amounts of time and effort into maximizing my longevity, but if there are cheap and simple things I could be doing I would consider them.

[1] CDC

[2] CDC via world life expectancy

[3] They do have a lot on cryonics, and while I haven't yet decided what I think of that, I think there are likely other things I could be doing in the same cost effectiveness range (mostly by virtue of being quite cheap).

[4] Update 2011-08-17: David says he doesn't remember saying that. So I could be imagining it.

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