clock menu more-arrow no yes

Study: Men are much more likely than women to take truly idiotic risks that cost their lives

Every year, a dozen or so people receive a Darwin Award. In the words of the award committee, "Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species' chances of long-term survival."

Their stories — though tragic — are often criminal, and will stretch your understanding of just how idiotic humans can be.

Take, for instance, the South Carolina man who spray-painted his face gold to disguise himself while robbing a Sprint store, then asphyxiated from the fumes. Or the pair of Belgian bank robbers who attempted to use dynamite to break open an ATM, but ended up demolishing the entire building, burying themselves in debris, and dying.

Recently, a group of British researchers decided to analyze the data provided by the Darwin Awards as a way of finding out whether men are more likely to engage in foolishly risky behavior than women — as has previously been indicated by studies of hospital records and financial risk-taking.

Their finding, published today in the British Medical Journal, isn't a huge surprise, but it's still pretty jarring: 88.7 percent of the Darwin Awards winners were male.

darwin awards

This just takes into account the 318 awards whose stories had been independently verified by the Darwin Awards Committee and awarded to a single person or multiple people from the same gender (another 14 were awarded to male-and-female combinations, and 81 other awards hadn't been verified).

The researchers note that there could theoretically be some selection bias at play, and that the disparity might also just reflect known differences in rates of crime and alcohol consumption between men and women.

Still, the lesson here is clear: men are much, much more likely to take truly idiotic risks that cost their lives.