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Men vs. women: Which gender is more likely to be fatally struck by lightning?

By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer

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Although the odds of being hit by lightning in a person’s lifetime are 1 in 13,500, men are much more likely to be struck and killed than women, according to data from the National Weather Service (NWS).

Each year since 1968, lightning strikes in the United States have claimed more male lives than female, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

An NWS analysis of lightning-related deaths reveals that of the 352 people struck and killed between 2006 and 2016, males accounted for 79 percent of all deaths.

Lightning - Pexels image


More than 90 percent of men were involved in fishing or sports activities at the time of the strike, the report showed.

“Men don't appreciate the threat of lightning,” said Barbara Mcgarity, energy expert for Payless Power.

“They'll go outside, play sports and, in general, not do the safest things when they should be inside,” Mcgarity added.

The analysis showed that women had fewer deaths than men in each category.

The highest number of female lightning deaths were reported in the boating-related activities category, with 35.5 percent, and the routine daily/weekly activities category, at 35 percent.

Of sports-related lightning fatalities including golf, running, baseball and football, soccer ranked as the category containing the highest number of male lightning deaths.

Males are also more likely to have jobs that involve outdoor tasks, which would explain why men comprise 91 percent of work-related lightning fatalities, according to the NWS analysis.

It comes down to a combination of vulnerability and behavior, according to John Jensenius, the NWS lightning safety specialist and warning coordination meteorologist who conducted the analysis.

Pie chart - Leisure-related activities, men vs. women lightning deaths


Men typically find themselves in situations that heighten their vulnerability, Jensenius said.

“[Also,] I think the behavior factors into it because they are less likely to react quickly to the threat or perhaps just ignore the threat,” he said.

Men are less likely to worry when they hear thunder, assuming the lightning threat is minimal if it sounds far away, according to Jensenius.

“In fact, if they do hear thunder, they’re already in danger,” he cautioned.

Awareness of approaching or developing storms also plays a role in the number of deaths.

Certain activities might hinder a person’s ability to listen or watch for signs of inclement weather conditions, according to the NWS analysis.

Pie chart - Sports-related activities, men vs. women lightning deaths


Ages of lightning victims

The report also showed that the greatest number of lightning-related deaths occurred between the ages of 10 to 60.

While most deaths seem to occur between ages 20 to 29, data shows that deaths tend to be lowest for people in their 30s.

“I believe that it may actually be related to the fact that both men and women around that age have young children, and because of the young children, they tend not to be outside as much,” Jensenius said.

“In a sense, the very young children are keeping those parents safe, because they are indoors more,” he added.

Protecting yourself from a lightning strike

The NWS analysis stated that many lightning victims were either headed to safety, or just steps away from it, according to media reports.

“The key to safety is that if you hear thunder, you need to get inside right away,” Jensenius said.

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“We have a very simple saying: ‘When thunder roars, go indoors,’" he added. This is because thunder can be heard from and lightning can strike from about 10 miles away.

Simply hearing thunder means there is a real threat of a lightning strike, according to Jensenius. He encouraged people to remain indoors for at least half an hour after hearing the most recent roar of thunder.

“If people would do that, we’d see a great reduction in the number of lightning fatalities,” Jensenius said.


For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.

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