More likely to die in a shark attack than a plane crash?

08 August 2017

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Question

Is it true that you are more likely to die in a shark attack than a plane crash?

Answer

Statistician Simon White gets his teeth stuck into this one...

Simon - This is one of those really interesting questions because it goes back to the heart of one of the problems of statistics, because your absolute chance of dying from a shark attack is higher than your absolute chance of dying in a plane crash, as in the number of people on the planet that die from those two causes. However, that’s not really a useful number because it doesn’t put it into the context of any other forms of how you might die. Also, you have to remember that in statistics that the population average, so across the entire planet. How likely you are to die from a shark attack is a very different question. Because if you never fly, you’re never going to die from a plane crash.

Chris - So if you don‘t go in the sea you’re not going to get eaten by a shark either?

Peter - So, there’s a big difference there between population level statistics and individual level numbers.

Peter - I was wondering is it more likely that you die of a shark attack after you plane has crashed into the sea? Is it commonotorial?

Chris - How does that sit with you?

Simon - Actually, also part of that question is you’re more likely to be in a plane crash, but people survive a lot of plane crashes now.

Peter - But how many of them get eaten by sharks?

Simon - Actually, there are very few plane crashes over water.
 

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