Relative risk and benefit

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Emotions often play a huge role in our decision-making. When we make decisions about the risks of certain activities / actions and the benefits of mitigation strategies, we are influenced ("biased") by lots of things: our fears and attachments, previous experiences, our friends and family, the latest article we've read, the advice of trusted sources.

However, almost everyone agrees that, all things considered, mitigating higher risks is better than mitigating lower risks at the same cost (not just financial cost, but all costs - ie loss of time, increased stress, discomfort, etc.)

So are there arbitrage opportunities out there? That is, are there opportunities for us to better expend our resources towards lessening unnecessary risks to our health? You bet. This blog will explore those using the data. While we will also weigh in on less tangible or measurable benefits, such as anxiety reduction, and discuss how those play a role in societal and individual decision making, we will be primarily focused on where the numbers clearly indicate that we all could be better spending our time and money.

For example, we currently spend more on fire escapes in this country per capita then we do on lung cancer screening. Yet, the number of lives (or years of life) saved by fire escapes is a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population, vs. the definitive huge benefit in terms of lives saved of detecting malignancies of the lung at an early stage. Stay tuned for a deeply detailed analysis of the data on this and other risk mitigation efforts by our society.

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