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A healthy attitude toward risk

One of life’s harshest realities is the presence of risk.  Risks are permanent conditions of our existence that we generally seek to avoid.  This is the fundamental reason for the establishment of institutional risk management mechanisms such as insurance. 

Our aversion to risk is emphatically reaffirmed by today’s crisis.  Each day we take measures to protect ourselves from harm. Some are able to go about their business by observing minimum health safety protocols, while others will take more extraordinary precautions.  As we continue to cope with this pandemic, our attitudes toward risk become evident.  They are either positive or negative, healthy or unhealthy. 

The most negative or unhealthiest attitude toward risk is denial.  Those who say, “That will never happen to me” are dangerously out of touch with reality.  By believing they are impervious to misfortune, they tend to behave recklessly if not irresponsibly, risking their own lives and that of others.  Such is the scenario in another country where millions of citizens consider Covid-19 “fake news” and thus refuse to protect themselves.  Tragically, both infection and mortality numbers bely their claim. 

Another unhealthy disposition is extreme evasion.  The behavioral tendency of people with this attitude is to recluse themselves to the point of being irrationally overcome by risks. At the start of this pandemic, we were all gripped by fear because we understood so little about Covid-19 and were affected by conflicting reports and misinformation.  As a result, a number of people literally put their lives on hold until this scourge is completely eliminated.  They hunkered down in their shelters, waiting and praying, but at the same time growing in negative thoughts, despair or depression.  This is not an acceptable response because it can seriously affect mental health.

We can’t afford to lose our heads or our hearts at this time.  If we do, the global pandemic wins.  We must adopt a healthier attitude to our situation in general, and to risk in particular.  Uncertainties and perils will never go away, but there’s no reason why we can’t be active and productive while remaining mindful of our personal well-being and responsibilities to others.  To do this we have to control our anxiety and fear levels so they do not overpower reason and common sense.  Remember this: risks do not always lead to “worse-case-scenario” outcomes.

With this in mind, let us again examine our Covid-19 data.  As of February 26, 571,327 tested positive out of our total population of 110 million, for an infection rate of 0.5 percent, (1 in 192 Filipinos).  12,247 (2.14 percent of those infected), died. In the Philippines, therefore, the odds of dying from Covid-19 are 1 in 8,981.  How should we feel about this?  In 2018 the National Safety Council listed, among many others, the odds of death in the United States from the following selected causes: (1) Heart disease = 1 in 6; (2) Cancer = 1 in 7; (3) Chronic lower respiratory diseases = 1 in 26; (4) Suicide = 1 in 86; (5) Opioid overdose = 1 in 98; (6) Motor vehicle crash = 1 in 106; (7) Fall = 1 in 111; (8) Gun assault = 1 in 298; (9) Drowning = 1 in 1,121; (10) Sunstroke = 1 in 7,770.   

Comparatively speaking, the likelihood of dying from Covid-19 is far lower than many other possible causes of mortality.  Our numbers here may differ somewhat, but the conclusion will be the same. There are many other circumstances or perils that pose an even higher risk of dying than this pandemic, yet we accept them, co-exist with them and still maintain a positive outlook in life.  Why should it be different with Covid-19?

We must be conscious of our personal circumstances and surroundings.  This is part of what it means to live in the “new normal”, but with emphasis on the word “live”.  Let us control our fears, act wisely, and attain peace of mind by practicing sound risk management.  As my mother would tell me, we will never be given problems we cannot handle.

Is your attitude toward risk healthy, or is it preventing you from living and reaching your goals? Your future and that of your loved ones is at stake.*

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