The National Health Service in the United Kingdom has recently disseminated a wonderful graphic, helping people understand how likely they are to die from scary things, like war and airplane accidents, versus less terrifying but deadlier hazards, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol:
In behavioral economics, we talk about something called the “availability heuristic,” a fancy term meaning – when we try to guess how likely things are to happen, we use as a simple rule of thumb how easily instances of those occurrences come to mind. Things that come easily to mind, we assume, are more common. It’s easy to think of airplane accidents, because they’re covered in the news. Nothing newsworthy about a 90-year-old man dying from smoking related illness. This graphic is powerful, because it acts as a visual reminder of what we really ought to be scared about.