How You’ll Probably Die, Visualized

Preoccupied with impending death? There’s an infographic for that.

We’ve been obsessed with our own mortality for all of history, as documented in literature, music, and works of art throughout the ages. It’s simply human nature to be morbid. Nowadays, big data can take this dark preoccupations to a whole new–and more accurate–level.


Flowing Data’s Nathan Yau is happy to assist. The data scientist has previously visualized when we’ll die and how our loved ones will die. Now he’s put together an interactive infographic that charts out how you yourself will likely die based on how many years you’ve lived.

Here’s how it works: go to the infographic on the Flowing Data page and enter your sex, race, and age into the blanks at the top of the infographic. On the left side, each dot represents the death of a simulated self, and the color of each dot corresponds to a cause of death (infection, cancer, circulatory problems, external causes, etc). As each year passes, more of your simulated selves die. On the right side, a bar graph keeps tabs on your cumulative percentages. When the animation ends, at year 100, you’re left with the likelihood that you will die of each cause.

It’s an compelling way to visualize the data, because it shows not only your chances of dying from a certain disease but your likelihood of dying in general during certain phases of your life. The results have one pretty obvious takeaway–your chances of dying increase as you age–but it’s fascinating to watch how the those chances change in different age groups. Shift the age to 0, and you’ll see that once you get past year one, the dots accumulate slowly over the next few decades (chances of death, from anything, are low). Past 30, the dots change color more quickly (there are tons of ways that you could die!). You can compare the results for different demographics, too, by filling in the blanks with different races and genders.

One surprising finding, as Yau points out in the post, is that if you shift the age past 80 years, it’s more likely across all demographics that your cause of death will be circulatory rather than cancer, which is the leading cause for most adults up to that point. In other words, even if you make it through life without getting cancer, your heart will fail you eventually. We all have to go one way or another.

For more uplifting info, try it out for yourself here.

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.