Micromorts – A Measure of Our Risk of Dying

by | Jun 10, 2020


A previous IFOD covered the chances of dying from various diseases and accidents: Chances are you’ll die of . . . It is interesting to see the odds of various ways to die. For example, our chances of dying of heart disease are one and six, and our chance of dying in a dog attack is one in 114,000.

Another way of putting chances of dying in perspective is the concept of the “Micromort,” which was developed by Stanford professor Ronald Howard.

What is a micromort? “Micro” means small and “mort” comes from the latin word for death (think mortis). One micromort is a one in a million chance of dying from a disease or other event. The concept is that everything we do has some chance of killing us and these chances of dying can be roughly quantified. It’s a pretty interesting and useful way of thinking about risk.

What are some things that will increase your chance of death by 1 micromort? “Drinking three glasses of wine, spending an hour in a coalmine, or eating 100 charcoal-cooked steaks. Those activities could lead to, respectively, cirrhosis, black lung, or cancer from eating ingesting a chemical called benzopyrene.” Source.

Here are some other micromorts:

Climbing Mt. Everest37,392 mm
Being born430
Giving birth170
Getting out of bed (age 75)105
Using heroin (one time)30
Going for a swim12
Skydiving (per jump)10
Running a marathon7
Getting out of bed (age 45)6
Scuba diving (each dive)5
Traveling 1,000 miles in a jet1
Traveling 230 miles in a car1
Skiing (per day)1
Horseback riding (per ride)0.5
Source: Visual Capitalist

So, if you are 45, wake up and go skiing you experience 7 micromorts: 6 related to just getting out of bed and 1 from your day of skiing. That means you have a 7 in one million chance of dying from those two things.

How about Covid-19? According to physicist David Roberts writing in the NY Times, a person living in NY City in March through May of this year experienced an additional 50 micromorts per day due to Covid-19 and those living in Michigan experienced an additional 11 micromorts per day. For people actually infected with the disease the number of micromorts jumps to 10,000 but Dr. Roberts notes that number of micromorts is for all individuals and younger and healthy people will have a much lower number and older and/or unhealthier people will have a higher number of micromorts.

The concept of micromort was designed to help us keep risk in perspective, but I wonder if it doesn’t freak people out. For example – taking on an additional 50 micromorts per day due to living in NYC sounds like a lot. 50 is a big number. But, 50 out of a million is just 0.01%. And 10,000 micromorts is 1.0%.


  1. Looks like taking a nap is more dangerous than I thought…I will now nap on the couch! Luv2Nap

  2. Missing from the list is the number of micromorts attributed to spousal disagreements. The effect of my wife’s willingness to overlook many of my assertions is quantifiably life-giving.


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