STATS at George Mason University how to evaluate health risks
11. Is the risk worth the benefit?


Another consideration which should play a role in your health choices is whether the risk related to a substance or activity is worth the benefit you receive from it— and whether the hassle of changing your diet, medications or activities is truly warranted.

These are value judgments. To one person, any increased cancer risk is unacceptable and any dietary change is worth it to reduce such odds; to another, who lives to eat rather than eats to live, the risk is worth the pleasure. This is something only you can decide for yourself, based on your own values and preferences.

In making such choices, people often fail to consider that changing one potentially risky behavior could simply increase another. Fear of flying, for example, may lead someone to drive more and actually increase their odds of dying in an accident, rather than reducing them.

Changes that seems harmless at first glance — such as “just in case” medical interventions — may actually do more harm than they prevent. When making such decisions, consider how big the potential benefits of change are, what the costs and risks may be, and what the evidence really shows.



risk home

STATS home

email this page to a friend

next risk topic

about staff publications get e-mail updates contact us search contribute