Sharks: they kill less humans than lightning strikes | Photo: Shutterstock

Shark attack events are extremely rare but always make the news and generate a serious social alarm when they occur.

Despite the flashy headlines, the truth is that humans are not part of the shark's diet, and in most cases, it privileges the less dangerous hit-and-run attacks.

And in many cases, the injuries and wounds caused by the predator's teeth are not lethal. So, yes, surviving a shark attack is not impossible.

So, what are the odds of being bitten to death by a shark? Is it safe to surf and swim on our coastlines? What do statistics tell us about shark attacks on humans?

Florida Museum's International Shark Attack File (ISAF) documents all known shark attacks since 1958.

Simultaneously, it gathers data from several sources covering the period from the mid-1500s to the present day.

They perform geographical analyses, reveal trends, and publish statistics regarding the evolution of shark attacks on a global scale.

ISAF made an effort to fine-tune the comparisons and calculate more accurate odds of being attacked and/or dying by a shark.

They used beach attendance data supplied by the US Lifesaving Association for a large number of beaches in the West and East Coast States in the year 2000.

The results are surprising - or maybe not.

ISAF compared shark attack data with all accidental death information published by the National Safety Council and reached an interesting conclusion.

The odds of being attacked and killed by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067 (0,000026 percent), which means that there are 18 diseases and accidental causes of death more likely to kill you during your lifetime than the ocean's predator.

Major Causes of Death in the USA

Take a look at 18 major causes of death in the United States:

  • Heart Disease: 1 in 5;
  • Cancer: 1 in 7;
  • Stroke: 1 in 24;
  • Hospital Infections: 1 in 38;
  • Flu: 1 in 63;
  • Car Accidents: 1 in 84;
  • Suicide: 1 in 119;
  • Accidental Poisoning: 1 in 193;
  • MRSA Infection (resistant bacteria): 1 in 197;
  • Falls: 1 in 218;
  • Drowning: 1 in 1,134;
  • Bike Accident: 1 in 4,919;
  • Air/Space Accident: 1 in 5,051;
  • Excessive Cold: 1 in 6,045;
  • Sun/heat Exposure: 1 in 13,729;
  • Lightning: 1 in 79,746;
  • Train Crash: 1 in 156,169;
  • Fireworks: 1 in 340,733;

Shark Attack: 1 in 3,748,067

You'll notice that getting killed by a shark attack is more than ten times less probable to occur than losing your life due to fireworks.

For example, death by a lightning strike, a risk surfers take every time they catch waves under cloudy and stormy skies, is 47 times more likely than death by shark attack.

The figures speak for themselves. If you're moderately precautious, it is highly unlikely that you'll die from a shark attack.

Living is taking risks all the time. When you're eating, sleeping, walking down the street, studying, exercising, and having fun, you're always putting your life on the line.

Surfing takes place in a natural environment, surrounded by the elements and marine life.

It is vital that you feel comfortable with what you're doing and assess the risks before paddling out.

Learn more about why, when, and how sharks attack, and make sure you don't go surfing or swimming in shark-infested regions or beaches closed by authorities.

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