Field of Science

Do you hate slow walkers? So does the Grim Reaper !

Researchers in Sydney, Australia were analysing mortality statistics, when they found an intriguing trend. They found that slow walkers tended to have a higher chance of dying early. Could this be a sign of an underlying lack of fitness in slow walkers? Or perhaps that laziness really can kill you ?
None of these explanations were satisfying. But then they realised the one unifying factor in these mortality statistics. Everyone had died. And as you well know, when you die, it is as a result of meeting that fabled entity, The Grim Reaper.

The Grim Reaper, the Harbinger of Souls, Friend to the Friendless, is known to stalk the halls of many a hospital. Despite the fact that this creature is believed to be responsible for 100% of all mortality statistics, it has barely been studied in the scientific literature.

So they did the sensible thing. They set up a study, and enlisted a number of participants, and measured their walking speed. They kept in touch with their participants, checking up on their health and ultimately recorded when they died.

They analysed the relationship between the average walking speed, and the likelihood of encountering the Grim Reaper. And they found that faster walkers do seem to outrun the Grim Reaper. To quote the paper
"Faster speeds are protective against mortality because fast walkers can maintain a safe distance from the Grim Reaper."
"The Grim Reaper prefers to walk at 0.82 m/s (2 miles (about 3 km) per hour), with a maximum estimated speed of 1.36 m/s (3 miles (about 5 km) per hour)"
Older men wishing to outrun the Grim Reaper should maintain walking speeds above these levels. The researchers did say "However, as it is possible that Death’s walking speed varies between work and leisure time,"
In terms of study limitations, they highlighted other problems:
"A further limitation is that we were unable to collect data on the presence of resources that have been reported as enabling people to avoid Death, such as invisibility cloaks, resurrection stones, and elder wands (collectively known as the Deathly Hallows)

They recognise that it is possible to trick, and /or outwit the grim reaper, and to investigate this they propose future work.
"Future research could investigate whether a person’s level of cunning, measured on a suitably developed scale such as the potential CCATBS (the Cunning, Conniving and All-round Tricky Bastard Scale), enables them to walk at slow speeds while still avoiding Death."

So avoid tragedy this Christmas. Walk Faster !

Stanaway FF, Gnjidic D, Blyth FM, Le Couteur DG, Naganathan V, Waite L, Seibel MJ, Handelsman DJ, Sambrook PN, & Cumming RG (2011). How fast does the Grim Reaper walk? Receiver operating characteristics curve analysis in healthy men aged 70 and over. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 343 PMID: 22174324

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