One of the most popular questions to ask a fortune-teller is "What will be the cause of my death?" Now, you could spend 50 bucks, go to a fortune-teller, and live the next 40 years of your life being terrified of buses or ducks or something, but for those of you who want a more accurate supposition, this interactive map shows your most likely cause of death. Created by Nathan Yau for Flowing Data, the interactive chart is based on comprehensive compiled data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2005 through 2014. Mr. Yau holds a Ph.D. in statistics from UCLA, and his mission, according to his Flowing Data bio is "to make data available and useful to those who are and aren't necessarily data experts; I think visualization plays a major role in this."
And this "Cause of Death" chart is definitely interesting and, dare I say, "fun" to play around with. Nathan Yau uses a stacked area graph to display the information. This type of graph gained popularity after a 2008 after a similar form showing how different groups of Americans spent their day was published by The New York Times. The bright colors and easy to read layout allow even a stat-newb like me to easily decipher nearly 10 years of the CDC's estimated cause of mortality data. If you apply different filters, the graph shows how cause of death varies and compares across the variables of sex, race, and age.
Yau went through the compiled 113 causes of death, which were grouped into 20 different classifications. In situations of multiple causes, it was narrowed down to the underlying cause fitting the definition by the World Health Organization, "the disease or injury which initiated the train of events leading directly to death, or the circumstances of the accident or violence which produced the fatal injury."
When looking at the chart, you can assume some causes of death will emerge as more common — as Yau notes, "about a third of people die from diseases of the respiratory system (like the flu), but less than three percent die from infectious or parasitic diseases (like Tuberculosis)."
Explore the graph for yourself, and it's easy to make your own observations. In order to read the graph, Yau explains, "The height of any strip in the chart represents the percentage of people who died of a cause out of those who died at that age." For example — men are twice as likely to die of external causes than women. And of the women who died at age 60, about 40 percent died of cancer, whereas men had a slightly higher over all percentage of deaths cause by cancer, but a lower percentage died of cancer at age 60.
If it brings you any solace, the 20s and early 30s are relatively quiet in terms of deaths (except external causes!), so just be safe and have fun. And, if you are into stats or the slightly macabre, be sure to check out the graph to learn more!