Do You Die A Little Bit Every Day?

How risky is risky? When you have a brush with death, when does that brush turn into a downright shove? That’s the question that Ronald A. Howard attempted to answer with the “micromort” or tiny death.


The micro-mort is a unit of death. Add enough micro-morts and, you guessed it, you’re dead.

When Ronald A. Howard started as a professor at Stanford, he concentrated on breaking a fatal risk into small units. A micromort is a one-millionth chance of death. Different risk activities would have different levels of death, a higher or lower micromort total.

This guy isn’t going midichlorian on us. He simply wants to guague the risk of death.

Here are some examples:

  • Drinking water in Miami for a year increases your likelihood of dying by one micromort
  • General anaesthetic in an emergency operation garners a micromort of 10
  • Driving 250 miles in a car increases your death chances  by one micromort (I’m not sure if this is continuous driving or over a period of days).

Things fall into perspective when you find out that you can only travel 6 miles via motorcylce to get that one micromort increase. This makes it a much more dangerous trip.

The micromort can be viewed as the average “ration” of lethal risk that people are exposed to daily. So don’t get all hung up on it. The life expectancy for an average human is one million half hours (source here). That means that micromorts turnout to me a measure of your life (because you will eventually die). That would mean you spend 1 micromort per half hour. Any activity that raises that (like general anaesthetic) creates more risk.

Tim Kane

2 comments on “Do You Die A Little Bit Every Day?

  1. Very interesting subject. I’m amazed my Hubby is still with me, considering the life he’s lived. You see, Hubby was a high steel worker in his younger days when there was no such thing as a harness to keep him safe. If he was a cat, he’d be on his 7th or 8th life, by now. I wonder how Howard would consider his micromort count after surviving the following: double pneumonia as a baby, riding up the girder of a bridge on his motor cycle, jumping off a 20-foot high beam that was collapsing (broke both ankles), nearly drowning in Hawaii (on our honeymoon), having his leg crushed by the boom of a crane that fell on him (the only thing keeping him from falling to his death 30 feet in the air), and he’s an overweight smoker. Do you think he’ll die any sooner because of all these near-misses? He’s already 59, or will be in December. His dad lived to 80 and his mom just turned 81, if that has any bearing on the subject. It does make one think, though. 🙂

  2. That’s an interesting concept. I almost got hit by a train once. I probably upped my micromorts that day.

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