Death by Selfie

Death by Selfie

In This Article

What do Selfies Say About Us?

It is true: there is a growing number of selfie deaths!1,2

Selfie death is typically caused by risks people take to get that perfect selfie. A study in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care suggests that this has become a real problem, with 259 selfie deaths reported from 2011–2017.1

The researcher searched keywords such as selfie deathsselfie accidentsselfie mortalityself photography deathskoolfie deaths, and mobile death/accidents from news reports to gather information regarding selfie deaths.

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Selfie Death Facts

  • Some 72% of all selfie deaths occur in males!
  • The mean age of selfie death is 23 years old!
  • Google estimates that 24 billion selfies were uploaded to Photos in 2015!
  • About one million selfies are clicked per day in 18‑ to 24‑year‑olds!

The study found that India had the highest rate of selfie deaths, with 159, followed by Russia, with 16, and the United States, with 14. Most of these deaths are due to risky behavior. There were four times as many deaths due to risky behavior in men as women (115 in men to 27 in women).1,2

Read the following stats to learn about some risky selfie-death behaviors you might want to avoid:

The leading cause of death by selfies was drowning, with 70 deaths, followed by accidents involving cars or trains, with 51 deaths. 48 people died by falling while taking a selfie, 48 people died accidently burning themselves to death, 16 by accidental electrocution, 11 by misuse of firearms, and 8 by getting too close to a dangerous animal.1

The study concluded the following: No Selfie Zone areas should be declared across tourist areas, especially places such as water bodies, mountain peaks, and tall buildings, to decrease incidences of selfie‑related deaths.1 In fact, in Mumbai, India, there are already posted No Selfie Zones!

The New Dopamine High

What is it about the human mindset that would think it okay to take a life-threatening risk to take a picture of yourself?! Could this be a sign that we have just gone too far! Have we become a bit too selfish? Are we so addicted to attention and approval that we see a growing number of people risking their lives to post an attention-grabbing selfie?

There is no doubt that this behavior, in part, revolves around our cultural addiction to the reward hormone dopamine. Being approved of, liked, shared, Snapchatted, Instagrammed, or commented on is the new high.

It used to be shopping, but now we do that online, too, which takes a fraction of the time to get the same dopamine rush we used to have to work for. We had to drive to the mall, park, find the store, try something on a few times until we found the right fit, color, size, and fashion, and then, only once we swiped our credit card, would be get that dopamine-reward chemistry rush.3,4

I recently interviewed a group of college freshmen, who reported that the number of selfies they take per hour ranges from 50 to zero (if they are busy doing other things), with an average of about five per hour. That’s five dopamine hits per hour! The rate at which we’re able to access this reward chemistry is steadily increasing with new technologies. In the past, say, shopping in person, it would take many hours to cover five dopamine hits.

A few years ago, I wrote about how bad our addiction to shopping was and that we must replace the need for constant reward with giving, caring, and helping others. Perhaps the pendulum has swung far enough in the selfie, selfish, reward-addicted direction that we will start to take actions in the direction of more sustainable experiences of contentment.

Thinking that, somehow, repeatedly shopping, sourcing likes, taking selfies, or being shared will ever deliver lasting contentment just may be the new definition of insanity!

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Ayurveda Has a Plan for This

Is was called critical analysis in the original texts, or self-inquiry today: where we still our minds, balance our bodies, and ask those deep questions. Who are we truly? Who we have become in order to adapt to and endure life’s stressors?

The goal of Ayurveda, yoga, breathing, and meditation were all to gain deep inner clarity, so we could then engage in transformational actions steps (karma-breaking) to free ourselves from old unwanted patterns of behavior guaranteed to deliver the most temporary of satisfaction.

To learn more about Ayurveda’s plan for this, check out all the articles and videos I have written in my Emotion Health category and consider our new Kaya Kalpa cleanse, designed to mimic stem cell science and transform the body, mind, and spirit.

For a deep dive into these issues, take my new Yoga Journal Ayurvedic psychology course.


  3. Berns, G. Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment. Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition 2005.

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Dr. John

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