Your Odds Of Dying In A Shark Attack (And Other Accidental Death Stats)

I plan on diving as much as humanly possible while I’m away. Sometimes I even like to sit on my couch and play Scuba Steve in full dive gear while staring longingly at reruns of Globe Trekker: Sri Lanka & the Maldives.

But I digress …

Many travelers harbor irrational fears that affect their journeys and the risks they take. For travelers with a penchant for diving, many fear sharks. In our dive class, our instructors and divemasters underscored how unlikely it is that we’d ever be the victim of a shark attack.

Shark Attacks Kayak

Feeling a bit curious today, I decided to find out just how unlikely. Finding worldwide shark attack statistics was easy, however the only comprehensive list of “cause of death” stats I could find was from 2003 and specific to the United States. No matter though because the comparison only reinforces what our instructors told us.

To put things in perspective, I’ve compared fatal shark attacks worldwide to other, what I would consider, rather bizarre ways to die. In increasing order of likelihood:

Cause of Death Total Number
Shark Attack 4 (out of 57 total attacks)
Contact with hot tap-water 26
Lightning 47
Contact with hornets, wasps and bees 66
Intentional self-poisoning 5,462

“Contact with hot tap-water”? So I’m more likely to be, not just maimed, but actually killed by my hot water faucet at home than dying in a shark attack?

I think it’s fair to say that death by shark is a bit of an irrational fear, no?

33 Responses

  1. Veery

    Great post! Irrational fears can control your life if you let them. Way to put things in perspective!

    Reply
  2. mike

    it’s funny, after 9/11 sharks seem to have stopped attacking people, at least as far as the news media is concerned. for the whole summer that year it seemed as though the beaches were just giant all-you-can-eat-buffets for sharks.

    Reply
  3. Slacer

    I would be much more interested in the percentages than the actual numbers

    if everyone had access to hot water everyday, then 26/6,000,000,000 isn’t a whole lot – and then you would have to multiply the number by the amount of times during the day you came in contact.

    I know it’s stupid to think people die from hot water (it really is) but I’m just putting this out there

    Reply
  4. natalie

    that would be the scariens thing in the world if i was him i would jumped into the sharks mouth love yayayayay

    Reply
  5. porkchop

    scary but at least i would have a stry to tell!if you are agreeing with me say “i”

    Reply
  6. james

    but the percentage of people that swin in the sea is low. The percentage of attacks compared with the numbers that regularly swin in shark infested waters would be a more interesting statistic

    Reply
  7. lawrence

    i’m not fully convinced because the rest of the deaths are all land based, shark attacks are in the ocean & yeah i’m too tired too write anything else

    Reply
  8. Jeremy

    irrational fear ? well .. yes and no .. you are more likely to be killed by hot tap water, yeah.. but your chances of coming into contact with hot tap water are far greater than ever meeting a shark.

    I’d say your chances would increase ( at least above the tap water threshold ) the more time you spend in the ocean. ( and especially if it were New Smyrna Beach in FL )

    Reply
  9. Michael

    Bullshit. People died from sharks everyday. The attacks are not reported around here because if “they arn’t americans, why should we care”.
    Don’t go in the ocean. And if you do, don’t be surprised if you get a leg torn off.

    Reply
  10. Loz

    Yeah, but if the shark gets you, it sure is a much uglier and excruciating way to die in my opinion.

    Reply
  11. Michael

    And I really hope that contact with hot water thing is a joke or what richard’s thinks is a joke bacause fucking with sharks isn’t. Hey mike who speaks in the third person, please go diving as much as humanly possible as you put it. the more you are in the ocean, the better chance you might get to see what real fear is. Because we don’t want that bad little water faucet to take you out. What a bitch way to die. “Well Scuba Steve over here was doing dishes and he wasn’t paying attention and the hot water got him.” Fucking loser.

    Reply
  12. Mike Richard
    Mike Richard

    @Michael: I’ll stick to believing the above linked stats from the Florida Museum of Natural History over your unfounded liberal hysteria that “non-American” shark deaths are simply unreported.

    @Loz: So true, so true. It’s certainly a horrific way to go. But a rare one nonetheless.

    @Michael#2: Been diving, been in the ocean. Swam with sharks. And the fear *is* irrational. If it bothers you, don’t dive/swim.

    Reply
  13. Michael

    damn mike, out of all of people that have been leaving comments since August of 2007, Loz and I are the first people you felt like you need to type back to, in less than 24 hours. OK Richard, I understand that sharks are non-violent, But I wouldn’t take my chances swimming around in there habitiat because of the simple fact that they might turn on you. And you can’t say that it will not happen, Because even according to your “stats” 4 out of 57 died. The fact is still 57 got attack. I am not talking about death totals, I am talking about being in the water and getting bit. That beats out hot water contact and lighting Strikes. I was fucking around on the first comment buddy. Don’t you have some outdoor adventure to go on, then come back and leave some post about how “the chances of drowning in the bathroom sink are greater then getting attack by a bear.”

    Reply
  14. Margyc

    It certainly looked very sharky to me. Look here in Aust we have lots of sharks – & I’ve been paranoid since I saw Jaws when I was 14(that’s a lot of years). Statistically irrational for sure, but why PUT yourself there. Anyway I just started kayaking at a nearby beach and finally thought I’d got over it – not any more! That is SO a shark not a dolphin.

    Reply
  15. Taylor

    Dolphins have tails that are flat and perpindicular with their bodies, sharks tails are stright in line with their bodies. therefore this photo is a shark.

    Reply
  16. HandsomeAngel

    Did you know that the shark population has decreased by 90%?! I mean, soda pop machines kill more people than sharks! So if you’re so afraid for your life, stay away from those pop machines. Hm, somehow, I can’t find anyone who shying away from those things yet we’re all so scared of sharks . . . Honestly, people, get a grip.

    Reply
  17. Rio

    All I need to say is whoever said that the picture above is a dolphin is a serious idiot. I can tell you any sensible person could see thats a f**king shark. Really? …. Really? It is true your taking a chance every time you venture into the ocean. If thats a chance your willing to take go for it. I dont believe in those stats either they are bullshit. Please tell me where you got your stats I’d love to know. Hot tap water!! Come on…..really? I feel like people say that so we wont be terrified of swimming in the ocean. Sharks will eat you. Dont you know what you look like in the water to sharks?? Have you seen shark week? Your a meal. It will never change so dont feel relieved. I dont mess around with sharks. Sharks were here first and the ocean is their home. Humans were not made for the ocean. Get it already. P.S I dont know where I found this site haha but I wanted to say something. dolphin….psssshhht.

    Reply
  18. Amber

    while yes we are more likely to die from hot water strictly from the fact of more often we come in contact… there are people that spend days amongst sharks. In fact i have been to a stingray sandbar in the grand caymans and a shark came in for a feeding and deliberately avoided biting humans. I also swam with sharks during scuba dives. Not once was i bitten. Is there a risk that they will bite out of curiosity or if we are in their feeding grounds. But to think it will happen EVERY time and you are in danger in the water is completely irrational. ThereThere is The

    Reply
  19. Amber

    there is the likelihood of being bitten in some lakes by bull sharks, eaten by piranha in other countries, and even for random animals to attack you as you step out the door. Are you going to hide in your house on the risk that some dog or wild animal is going to attack you? Or not let your children out to play outside on the slim chance that a pit bull or rottweiler is going to run up and attack them? Either you can live or let fear control you…. I say take chances, life is too boring if you dont

    Reply
  20. SharkGirl

    I think the reason people get attacked by sharks is because people are stupid. People swim inshore of sandbars: sharks live there. People swim in early morning and darkness, when sharks are most active. The sharks are probably just protecting their territory. Or, they’re just hungry. Either way, before anyone goes swimming in the ocean, he/she should learn a little about it first. Sharks are meant for the ocean. If people were meant to live in the ocean, we would have gills and fins. I’m definitely not saying to stay out of the ocean. I’m just saying that it would be a good idea to get information about where you swim. If somebody came into my house without permission and just started walking around, I would ask them to leave. If they didn’t leave, I’d kick them out. That’s the same thing with sharks. We come into their territory. It’s not like they invited us to come in, like the shark from Finding Nemo invited Dori and Marlin. Since sharks cannot really ask us to leave, they simply kick us out. They are just protecting their territory like a guard dog. If a shark sees what it thinks is an intruder, it will get rid of it. Sharks know thier ocean better than we do, and we need to respect their space.

    Reply
  21. SharkGirl

    @Amber, that is a really good way to put it. Life would definitely be too boring without risks. Anything in the world can kill you, like a pillow, a T.V., or a can of pop. Even getting out of bed in the morning is a risk. Each moment of life is a risk. In every dicision that we make–walking, sleeping, cooking, swimming–there is always something that can go wrong. When swimming in the ocean, there are lots of things that can happen. But it’s good to take risks, as long as you are aware of the risks you take.

    Reply
  22. Katy

    I’ve been surfing about a hundred times in my life and it’s definitely a rational fear because even if you aren’t attacked you will definitely come in counter with one if your out in the water enough especially around Hawaii the shark popululation is larger.

    Reply
  23. Dylan

    Your misuse of statistic data fails to show the effect that almost everybody in the world is around a hot tap every day of their lives, whereas only a tiny percentage of the world’s population ever even sees the ocean, let alone goes swimming once a year. So people that are in the sea surfing everyday are subject to a completely different level of risk. Using total fatalities completely dilutes the picture. I would love to see statistics on likelihood of attacks versus frequency of swimming in the sea.

    Reply

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