Australians do little things every day that increase the probability of death ever so slightly. But the riskiest behaviour isn’t always the most obvious.
Research shows that our beliefs, attitudes and values all influence how we perceive risk. A better understanding of risk itself doesn’t necessarily lead to a uniform response.
Many Australians are weighing up whether to get the Covid vaccine given the much-publicised, although extremely rare, risk of side effects associated with AstraZeneca. So how does that risk compare to other activities?
There are about 16,000 deaths in Australia every year from “unnatural causes”, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The risk is not the same for everyone as other factors come into play. You could be older, ride a motorbike or love extreme sports, for instance.
We can express this risk another way – microprobabilities. One microprobability is equal to a one in a million chance. A one in a million chance of death is one micromort. These allow us to easily compare the probabilities across different activities, behaviours or factors.
Just getting out of bed each morning increases the chance of sudden death by about 1.8 micromorts.
The same ABS data shows that 45 people died from falling from a building in 2019 – 1.8 micromorts. There were 76 injuries out of 366,000 skydiving jumps in 2019 according to the Australian Parachute Federation – 208 microprobabilities.
Which brings us back to the AstraZeneca vaccine and how we assess the risk. See how well you can identify the risk of the following activities and behaviours.
For each question, use the dropdown menus to select a probability range. Then use the sliders to narrow down your estimate. This quiz compares what you think the probability of an event occurring is to the actual probability, and the responses from other readers.