Life or Death Decision Making

Excerpt via Dan Ariely

What would you think if someone told you: Do the right thing because your life may depend on it. Or more accurately, that you better start making better decisions because it is a matter of life and death. This may sound like something an over protective parent would tell their child) but in reality it’s the way most of us should start to think about our day to day decisions and their potential to lead to harmful habits and fatal consequences. It is hard to believe that this is true, but recently, researchers have done some interesting analysis on this topic and the results support the idea that personal decisions, and often fairly mundane ones, are a leading cause of premature death in the United States (and I suspect that similar numbers are also the reality in the rest of the developed world).

One of the most interesting analyses on the ways in which our decisions kill us is one by Ralph Keeney (Operation Research, 2008), where Ralph puts forth the claim that 44.5% of all premature deaths in the US result from personal decisions – decisions that involving among others smoking, not exercising, criminality, drug and alcohol use, and unsafe sexual behavior.

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