5 Things More Likely Than a Shark Attack

Humans have an irrational fear of sharks. Most of this, I believe, is simply fear of the unknown. We don’t understand sharks nor most of the ocean and this frightens us. Combined with their poor treatment by the media and entertainment world, sharks overall get a bad rap.


I’m here today to balance the score a little. Statistics put the risk of a shark attack worldwide at about 1 in almost 300 million. That’s a 3 with 8 zeros behind it! And this is only taking into account those who actually go in the water, not your Aunt Mildred who thinks the ocean is “dirty”.

That’s a big number, and big numbers don’t usually mean much to people. Let me put in in more relatable terms. Here are 5 things more likely to happen to you than getting attacked by a shark:

  1. Win an Academy Award. Over 50 Oscars are given out each year (including scientific and technical award winners), meaning you are more likely to win the coveted gold statuette this year than get bitten by a shark. Better get crackin’ on that script!
  2. Die while scuba diving. While it sucks to think about, over 100 people die a year while scuba diving, often from unknown causes. You’re more likely to die while scuba diving from something like an equipment malfunction than to get attacked by a shark. There, don’t you feel better?
  3. Dealt a full house—three times in a row. The odds of getting dealt a full house (three of a kind and two of another kind, one of the highest hands in poker) is 1 in 693.

    Let’s say you spend all night playing poker with the guys. You are more likely to get dealt a full house three times in a row than get bitten by a shark. Just how much money did you win last time you played poker?

  4. Killed by a falling aircraft. In murky waters everyone’s on the lookout for killer sharks. How often are you on the lookout for falling aircraft? Instead of the Great White Shark you should be looking out for the Great White Airbus.
  5. Win a Nobel Prize. Six prizes are awarded. This actually makes your odds of winning any one year lower than getting bit by a shark. However, factor in how often they are awarded, and your odds quickly zoom past shark territory.

    In fact, in any one year you are more likely to become a nobel laureate (nominee) than get attacked by a shark. Isn’t it nice to know that the Nobel prize committee cares more about you than Jaws?

Now don’t you feel ridiculous? These numbers are only for getting attacked by a shark. Let’s say lightning strikes and you do get bitten (actually, the chance of you getting struck by lightning is orders of magnitude greater than getting attacked by a shark). Even then, the chance of you dying is still very small (about 1 in 30).

The problem, of course, is that no one lives by statistics. Rather, we live by our emotions. Next time you feel yourself getting a little irrational, start running the numbers in your head. If worse comes to worse, who knows, maybe the sharks will decide to leave Rain Man alone. ;)

Photo by egarc2


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16 Responses to “5 Things More Likely Than a Shark Attack”

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  11. Benedict Says:

    Maybe no one’s pointed this out before, but has anyone noticed that two different samples of people are being cross-examined? The number of people struck by lightning or hit by cars or winning Academy Awards cannot be compared to the number of people attacked by sharks for the simple reason that to be attacked by a shark, you need to be in the water. Only people who have entered the water before and have been struck by lighting would qualify for such a comparison. If not it’s just not logical.

  12. David Says:

    Hi Benedict,

    Thanks for reading.

    This type of statistics is perfectly fine when considering the entire human population. Remember, we are looking at the chances for any random person in the whole human race. The key there is random. As soon as you say something like, “Well, the chances of a non-diver being attacked is 0 because they don’t enter the water”, you are no longer talking about a randomly selected person: you are talking about a specific person, and statistics no longer apply.

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