August 23, 2019

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*This piece was originally published on March 1st, 2019.

Spiders and grizzlies and snakes, oh my! Ask someone what they’re afraid of, and the answer is likely to be something like a plane crash or shark attack. But Eric Chudler and Lise Johnson, the authors of the book “Worried?: Science Investigates Some of Life’s Common Concerns,” explain why they believe we often waste our energy worrying about the wrong things. 

Chudler, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington and Johnson, an assistant professor of physician assistant studies at Rocky Vista University, say: we often feel stressed about things that are highly unlikely to happen. Instead, we should be more focused on seemingly mundane threats, they explain. Chudler and Johnson talk to us about the risk behind everything from aluminum to red wine, and share ways to take control of the things we fear.

Three Takeaways:   

  • Chudler and Johnson explain that events like plane crashes and shark attacks are not worth our time and energy, since these types of occurrences are rare and out of our control. Instead, they say we should be concerned about things with a greater likelihood of happening, and things that we have the ability to prevent.
  • So, what should you be worried about? Chudler and Johnson suggest meat consumption, alcohol intake, and lead, for starters. 
  • The media distorts our ability to decide what’s worth worrying about. Animal attacks and freak accidents have a wow factor that get spread across the news, making us more likely to fear them. Chudler says that sharks account for a few deaths per year in the US, whereas medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the country.

More Reading:

Body and Mind, Eric Chudler, worry, psychology, Lise Johnson

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