7 Micromorts - Your chances of death in a marathon!

Did you see the programme about understanding chance last night?

16 messages
19/10/2012 at 14:41

Someone on this forum recently asked about placating the worries of loved-one, surrounding the risk of dying in a marathon. First the headline... if my understanding is correct, my first marathon next week will, on average, on one hand cost me 2 hours off the length of my life... but on the other...  it has already added at least 15 days to my life... and this amount will continue to grow. But that is not, of course, the full story.

On average, everyone running a marathon has a 7 in 1,000,000 chance of dying. That would cut about 30 years off the lifespan that I can expect. So, if 1 million people just like me ran a marathon, then on average, 7 would die, but 999,993 would live on a further 30 years. Those few sudden deaths would, on average, cost those million people about 2 hours of their lives (little comfort if you are one of the 7.... but hey, you know what I mean)

BUT...  every single day you spend at 5kg overweight, you lose 30 minutes off your life. Tick tock, tick tock... every day.  As it happens, I have lost exactly 5kg during training... and have been at this lower weight for at least a month.  So that's 15 days added.  And I understand that if you also run 30 minutes a day, the other health benefits add 30 minutes per day to your life.  So that's a bit more in the bank too.

This comes from a really interesting programme 'Tails You Win:the science of chance'  last night on bbc4.  One concept that was discussed was that of a unit of measurement of the chance of death....   the micromort (=1 in a million chance of death).

Some stats were flashed up, with 'running a marathon' = 7 micromorts.  My daughter was not impressed, with my marathon around the corner.

This sounded a bit risky to me...  especially as it is a global figure. Undoubtedly it's the average risk for the whole starting line up, which will include lots of young fit people..  Those of us in our late forties, undertaking our first marathons, and still carrying a bit of a belly around the course... presumably we have more than our fair share of micromorts.

But to put into context, there are the big health benefits mentioned at the top of this post.  Another context is to think of the other risks we accept.

If you live just 20 miles from the event, and travel there and back by motorbike, your journey will equal 7 micromorts

Cars are a lot safer, but still 1750 miles = 7 micromorts

walking 17 miles = 1 micromort.

Skydiving = 7 micromorts.

But an interesting point... the tv presenter is 59yrs old.  He has 7000 micromorts chance of dying of any cause in the next 12 months.  So adding 7 more isn't really a lot.

I think this is useful in putting the risks into perspective.

You can read more yourself on a related website, which seems to be written by the presenter of the programme... Prof Spiegelhalter   www.understandinguncertainty.org/

 

19/10/2012 at 15:05

Excellent stuff!  if there's one thing I enjoy more than trying to get my head round probabilities and large numbers, it's observing people's complete lack of idea of perspective when it comes to probabilities and large numbers.

Prog Spiegelhalter definitely sounds like a made-up name though.  Probably.

19/10/2012 at 15:21

Reading this thread means I have lost a few minutes of my life I will never get back 

19/10/2012 at 15:27

I suspect individuals are individually susceptible depending on their own physiology at the time of a race. It isn't a question of probability but of the physical make up of the particular individual at the time of the particular race, depending on how they are, and how hard they choose to push themselves. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfYxx7vTQY0

Edited: 19/10/2012 at 15:28
19/10/2012 at 15:32

Heh!  I like his comment in the video that going for a half hour run can add half an hour to your life, so you'd better enjoy running because that's what you spent your extra half an hour of life doing.

19/10/2012 at 15:49

PhilPub wrote (see)

Excellent stuff!  if there's one thing I enjoy more than trying to get my head round probabilities and large numbers, it's observing people's complete lack of idea of perspective when it comes to probabilities and large numbers.

Prog Spiegelhalter definitely sounds like a made-up name though.  Probably.

Hi Phil,

I know I had to short-cut some of the language... but does the above mean that you think I've badly misrepresented something here?

19/10/2012 at 15:53

Spiegelhalter = mirror holder ?

19/10/2012 at 16:02
Run Wales wrote (see)

 

Hi Phil,

I know I had to short-cut some of the language... but does the above mean that you think I've badly misrepresented something here?

No, not at all.  More of a general comment about some people's misinterpretations of risks, especially when there are large numbers involved, so if anything backing up some of what you wrote.  I wasn't aware of the "micromort" unit but it looks like a useful one!

19/10/2012 at 16:44

Sorry...  hypersensitive sometimes!... I thought you meant that I'd shown no grasp of stats!

If you like the mircomort (which deals with an acutely risky activity), and read through his website, you also find that he has invented (I think) the concept of  the microlife...   I chose not to complicate my already complicated OP with this... but it deals with risks that are very long term (e.g. smoking, drinking, obesity), rather than the acute risk of parachuting, or hang gliding.      He defines 1 microlife as = 30minutes off your life expectancy and has calculated that 1 microlife = 2 cigarettes, 2 pints of strong beer or one day at 5kg overweight.  But conversely, you can gain microlives, by doing healthy things like run 30 minutes a day (that quote you mentioned had us laughing out loud in our house too)

There's a clear statistical link between the micromort and the microlife - which is how I equated my weightloss-induced 15 day gain to the marathon induced 2 hour loss in life expectancy.

An interesting concept was that a micromort has more value when you're young... because accidental death at 20 cuts off a lot more years than when you're 60.  He therefore advocates changing your attitude to risk as you get older.  He illustrated this with a good stat was that a 59yr old has 7000 micromorts chance of generally snuffing it in the next 12 months. So adding 7 more by doing a parachute jump really makes little difference.  But an 18 yr old is much less likely to generally die, and has only 600micromorts to face over the coming year, so adding 7 more is a more significant increase to risk.

19/10/2012 at 16:58

*splut*

19/10/2012 at 18:19

"...Those of us in our late forties, undertaking our first marathons, and still carrying a bit of a belly around the course..."

Are you sure you want to risk it?

Has your doctor told you you're up to it?

Forget micromorts, look at your own state of health.

Edited: 19/10/2012 at 18:23
19/10/2012 at 23:57

2 pints of strong beer loses 30 minutes of your life? What a load of old codswallop! Maybe if you drink 2 pints of strong beer 5 times a day... you might lose 2.5hrs.

So why does does running a marathon give you 2 hrs less life expectancy?

20/10/2012 at 08:42
I caught up on this last night after seeing this thread.

I found it interesting, but I confess I didn't fully understand. In the bit that said that you'd better enjoy running if you run for 30mins, is he saying that running offers no micromort benefit because you only gain back what you put in? I.E., if you chose to lay on the sofa instead of going for the 30min run you'd be better off (this is presuming that laying on the sofa is 'less risky' than going for a run).

If that's the case it can't be right, can it? Is it that each 30min run is taken in isolation, but the cumulative benefit of regularly running isn't taken into account?

I'm probably thinking about this too much

I did relate to the part where he was kind of trading one thing for another. I can't recall the example now, but I regularly run (good) and whilst I'm running accept I'm going to have a couple beers later on (bad) so the two activies will balance out

Also, the bit about the casino games was interesting. I really enjoy watching the poker shows on the TV. There are times where players take swings (they're sometimes up, but sometimes down) but that is part of the game. There are many people who make a good living from poker but I think casual onlookers don't always appreciate that there is an element of skill (or at least being able to calculate odds, a bit like a bookmaker does) in poker, and it's not all down to luck. I don't see how you can 'beat' something like roulette or a slot machine though.
Edited: 20/10/2012 at 08:56
20/10/2012 at 17:59
Probabilities are just a way of measuring how likely an event is considering all other conditions are the same.

I underwent a medical procedure with a 3% chance of dying. That's 30,000 micromorts! Still here. Although the results of not having that procedure would have meant certain death. So for me not having the procedure was 1,000,000 micromorts and for the rest of you it would be presumably 0 micromorts.

All nonsense really. What caused the marathon deaths? Are they all different? Is there something you could be screened for? Were they first time runners? Some of them due to drinking too much liquids. So if I only take on a litre does that improve my chances of surviving running a few miles more than I regularly run on a Sunday, or in a race I've done a few times before?
21/10/2012 at 19:33

Someone hitting the micromorts jackpot:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-20023248

Edited: 21/10/2012 at 19:33
22/10/2012 at 11:56
Big_G wrote (see)
I caught up on this last night after seeing this thread.

I found it interesting, but I confess I didn't fully understand. In the bit that said that you'd better enjoy running if you run for 30mins, is he saying that running offers no micromort benefit because you only gain back what you put in? I.E., if you chose to lay on the sofa instead of going for the 30min run you'd be better off (this is presuming that laying on the sofa is 'less risky' than going for a run).

I understood this to mean that on average a 30 minute run would lead to a 30 minute longer life. However for some it would mean a 27 minute longer life and some a 33 minute longer life.

Also I wasn't clear that there weren't cumalative benefits and what the benefits were of running longer.

Finally although as Lenin said 'Quantity has a quality all its own' you have to look at quality of life versus length. I would far rather live to 80 and be healthy until not far from the end than live to 90 but only be healthy until 80.


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