The Coronavirus Cometh—But Don’t Panic

Be careful. Be prudent. But don’t panic. Panic always has irony built into it. Life’s biggest risks are largely under our own control. Let’s compare risks in this week’s edition of “Isn’t That Ironic?”.



Most of our health – physical, mental, spiritual – is in our own hands. We typically worry about things outside of us having a negative effect on us. But we usually overlook how seriously our own habits negatively impact us.


The current panic is over the coronavirus. Certainly, take reasonable precautions. But don’t let fear rule your life. Keep a logical perspective on the true risks. For example, right now (March 4, 2020) there are 152 cases reported in the USA. That is 0.00006% of the population (of 330 million). Currently, the coronavirus seems to have a death rate of about 3% (much higher than the seasonal flu death rate of about 0.1%). So currently about 4 or 5 people in the United States appear to be at risk of having their lives shortened by this virus. About 80% of cases are mild and people might not even realize their ailment is coronavirus. Older people and those with impaired immune systems are at a much higher risk, naturally.


Those numbers will certainly grow much larger. But last season, roughly 34,000 Americans died from the seasonal flu and nobody panicked over it. What are the major causes of premature death in the United States (and most Western countries)? As it turns out, ironically, they are mostly under our own control.


For example, in a recent blog post by the well-known psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen, he said,

“A huge worldwide analysis published in 2018 in the prestigious journal Lancet concluded that the intake level for lack of harm was zero grams of alcohol per day. In the Lancet editorial accompanying that article, two experts compared alcohol-related harms with tobacco-related harms, and stated ‘These diseases of unhealthy behaviors…are the dominant health issue of the 21st century.’ Strong words in the era of Ebola and coronavirus.”1


The dominant health issue of this century is unhealthy behaviors—yeah, we are all guilty of those. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is the 3rd leading cause of premature death and disability among people aged 15-49 years. It estimates that 88,000 Americans die annually from alcohol-related causes. The 1st and 2ndleading causes are tobacco use, and poor diet & exercise habits. Here’s the quote and the numbers. (I know it’s 20 years old but likely these numbers have only gotten worse.)


“The leading causes of death in 2000 were tobacco (435 000 deaths; 18.1% of total US deaths), poor diet and physical inactivity (400 000 deaths; 16.6%), and alcohol consumption (85 000 deaths; 3.5%). Other actual causes of death were microbial agents (75 000), toxic agents (55 000), motor vehicle crashes (43 000), incidents involving firearms (29 000), sexual behaviors (20 000), and illicit use of drugs (17 000).”2


So, 1,029,000 premature deaths were caused by what these people did to themselves. Only 130,000 (microbial and toxic agents) could be considered to come from “outside”. That’s almost 90% of premature deaths caused by the habits of people themselves. It’s ironic that we panic so much about threats from outside us when the biggest risks are ones we impose on ourselves.


The bottom line is, yes, be careful and prudent. But if you are going to die prematurely, it’s likely because of your own habits. Change your habits—change your life!


God Bless You!


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1 “6 of the Best Ways to Cut Down on Alcohol” by Dr. Daniel Amen in his blog “Brain MD”. Feb. 19, 2020. Read his great article here.


2 “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000” Ali H. Mokdad, PhD; James S. Marks, MD, MPH; Donna F. Stroup, PhD, MSc; et al in JAMA. 2004;291(10):1238-1245. doi:10.1001/jama.291.10.1238

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