Causes of Death Vs. What We Google Vs. What Media Reports On

by | May 23, 2023

All I want to know is where I’m going to die so I’ll never go there.

-Charlie Munger

In 2019, students at the University of California San Diego examined whether the top causes of death lined up with what people search for on Google and what is reported by the media. Using data over a 17-year period, they found a discrepancy between what we actually die from and what we google. The top causes of death for Americans are heart disease, cancer, accidents, and respiratory disease. Yet, heart disease — the biggest killer — only made up 2% of google searches about causes of death. Also, searches for violent forms of death like homicide, terrorism and suicide were overrepresented.

But Google searches much closer match real-world deaths than media coverage does. Looking at the New York Times and The Guardian, the researchers found that violent forms of death are HUGELY overrepresented.

Here’s a chart from Our World in Data summarizing the study:

Here’s another helpful chart summarizing how the media over-reports violent deaths:

That the media distorts the risks we face in life is something that I’m sure we’re all aware, but this study shines a light on how big the distortion is. Skewed media reports make the world seem much more violent than it is. And underreporting of major risks like heart disease — which is actually something that we can prevent with lifestyle changes — does a disservice to us all.


  1. I can only wish that this article reached all Americans- I have long been opposed to the mass media’s sensationalism and fear mongering. I believe it is now a virus we cannot kill without hurting us all.

    “Just the facts, ma’am.”

  2. if it bleeds, it leads


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