Why you'd never survive life during a zombie apocalypse

Admit it. You're kind of looking forward to the zombie apocalypse. All of civilization wiped away, along with all your debts and your dumb responsibilities at work. Nothing but you and your loved ones against the world. Just loot the Sam's Club, the Bass Pro Shop, and the nearest gas station, and maybe hit Macy's on your way home because if you're going to be a soldier in the war against the undead, you might as well look good doing it. And if you're lucky, you might also form a brotherhood with a ragtag band of super awesome fellow survivors and meet a sexy crossbow-wielding redneck who never bathes. In the apocalypse, anything is possible.

First you have to survive, though. And we're so sorry to report, it doesn't look good for you. But don't fret, it doesn't really look good for anyone else, either. If the zombie apocalypse really goes down the way Hollywood thinks it will, it's curtains for pretty much everyone, from the badass designer-jeans wearing, tank-driving zombie warrior queen to that sexy crossbow-wielding redneck who never bathes. No matter where you end up, you're probably doomed anyway. And in case you don't believe us, here are all the reasons why.

Your chances of survival in a zombie apocalypse are roughly one in 41.5 million

Based on what The Walking Dead has taught us about the zombie apocalypse, lots of people die, but lots of people survive, too. All you have to do is meet the right people and become a badass. You can do that, right?

Unfortunately, though, a team of researchers at the University of Leicester seems to think The Walking Dead is being pretty darned optimistic. The team used an epidemiological model known as "Susceptible, Infected and Recovered or Removed" (SIR) to calculate the survival rate in a zombie apocalypse, and it's not especially good news. To build their model, they assumed that zombies would infect (but not kill) about 90% of the humans they encountered, and that they'd die within 20 days if they didn't eat someone. Using a world population estimate of 7.5 billion, researchers calculated that by Day 100 there would be 181 people left on the planet. Which means your chances of survival are roughly one in 41,436,464. So, good luck with that.

Fortunately, the researchers ran another simulation that seems to bode much better for the human race. In the second scenario, humans fight back and become better at killing and avoiding zombies over time. With this model, by Day 100 there are still 200 million people on Earth. By Day 1,000 there are 67 million. And after six years all the zombies have vanished, the apocalypse is over, and The Walking Dead finally gets canceled. Hallelujah.

You're in lousy shape to be running from zombies

Occasionally, we see characters on The Walking Dead that can outrun zombies despite the fact that they appear to have never been outside a comfortable two-bedroom apartment in lower Manhattan. And really, you don't need to be in fine physical shape to do well in the modern world because in the modern world there are no predators. In the natural world, though, being out of shape means dying young. If you can't run, you're probably not going to last very long in a world full of things that want to eat you.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Americans are woefully out of shape. Two out of three adults are either overweight or obese, and let's face it, it's hard to run when you're overweight. Now, depending on whether you have to outrun a slowly shambling zombie like the ones in The Walking Dead, or a superfast zombie like the ones in 28 Days Later, your chances of survival may vary. But even if we're blessed with shamblers, escape depends on how many zombies you're likely to encounter at once because even the shambling variety is pretty likely to overwhelm you once it joins up with a horde of its fellow undead. So if you really think the zombie apocalypse is coming, you should probably get yourself a gym membership or at the very least a stairclimber or something.

You probably don't know how to start a fire without a can of gasoline

Not only are Americans woefully out of shape, they are also woefully unprepared to survive away from their comfy air-conditioned homes, Egyptian cotton sheets, and 24/7 access to Wi-Fi. Drop the average millennial in the middle of a forest and that person will probably be dead in 72 hours. Now drop that same person into a forest full of zombies and he or she probably wouldn't last 72 minutes.

In order to survive a zombie apocalypse, you're going to need to know how to hunt for food, how to find clean water or purify the stuff that has all the bodies floating around in it, and how to build an impenetrable zombie shelter. According to a 2017 poll, the average millennial doesn't possess any basic survival skills — only a third of those polled knew how to start a natural fire and only half could tie a survival knot. Just one-third had ever caught a fish and about two out of five had never swum in open water.

Do not despair, though. There's still a slim chance that the zombies in a real-life apocalypse will be vulnerable to, like, a nice 2010 cabernet sauvignon, and most generations totally rock at opening bottles of wine. You may laugh, but you can kill a Minecraft zombie by throwing snowballs at it, so anything's possible.

You live in the big city

Big cities are generally regarded as places of great opportunity — that's where you'll find jobs, culture, rude taxi drivers, traffic, and crappy air quality. Who wouldn't want to live in a big city, right? Someone who hopes to survive a zombie apocalypse, that's who.

Big cities, as it turns out, are absolutely the worst place to be during a pandemic of any kind. If you've ever been coughed on by someone on the subway, you're already aware of just how fast diseases can spread in crowded places. And you know what it's like trying to get out of the city during rush hour — now imagine what it will be like when the streets are full of the undead.

No, Business Insider says if you want to survive the zombie apocalypse the best place to be is the country. Research from Cornell University shows that people who live in areas with low population density (or who are sage enough to escape to those places) will have an advantage over those who want to stay close to their favorite art museums and restaurants. In the United States, the Rocky Mountains would be one of the safest places, presumably because zombies can't just walk in from any direction. (Everyone knows zombies can't climb.) So maybe you should move now, you know, just to be on the safe side.

Because the world just isn't prepared for a zombie apocalypse

Generally speaking, the world is really, really unprepared for a pandemic any kind, undead or otherwise. According to the Atlantic, we don't really invest a lot of money into public health or hospitals, and we're not ready to make the buttloads of vaccines that would be necessary if a scary disease suddenly arrived on our shores. Also, we don't have the hospital beds and ventilators we'd need to deal with a sudden influx of sick people.

Well, in a zombie apocalypse the beds and ventilators aren't so much of a problem because everyone who gets bitten would into a zombie and zombies don't need to breathe or lie down. But that's not the real problem — the real problem is stopping the outbreak before it's too late. The Washington Post says it can take just 36 hours for an infectious disease to spread from a small village to another country. And most countries don't have monitoring systems in place, nor do they have experts who will know what to do when an outbreak is detected.

In fact only about 6% of the world population lives in a country that does have pandemic preparedness systems in place. The U.S. is one of those few countries, but that's not going to help us much if the zombie outbreak happens in South America or Russia. The Rocky Mountains are starting to sound pretty good, aren't they?

If the zombies don't get you, the wild animals and feral dogs will

When the zombie outbreak finally happens, we know our loyal dogs will be at our sides, ready to defend us against the hordes of undead. Except you know it won't really be like that, right?

If your dog doesn't get eaten by a zombie there's not much chance that he's going to stick around once the kibble in your emergency kit runs out. He'll go feral, along with all those other dogs whose families joined the ranks of the undead. And packs of feral dogs are even more dangerous than packs of shambling zombies because feral dogs are actually fast, they have jaws made for biting and killing, their brains still work, and they don't respond to "sit."

Happily, How Stuff Works seems to think that zombies would have as much to fear from feral dogs and other wild animals as humans would — as far as most carnivores are concerned, an animated corpse is, after all, really just some walking pork chops and a ham butt. Of course that's only true until those corpses start to stink — even vultures won't go near an animal that's in advanced stages of decomposition. So all that really means is you don't have to worry so much about the fresh corpses. The slimy, stinking, horrifying ones are still going to be a huge problem. Awesome.

If the wild animals and feral dogs don't get you, other humans will

Any Walking Dead fan can tell you that it isn't really the dead we have to fear in the event of an apocalypse — it's the living. In the absence of law and order and in the presence of mortal peril, there really aren't any limits to what human beings might do in the interests of their own survival. The Zombie Research Society recommends forming a gang, preferably in advance of the apocalypse, so you'll all be prepared to deal with the many other post-apocalypse gangs that will be looting, killing, and generally behaving terribly.

It's not just evil people you'll have to contend with; it's also scared, desperate people. Once the hordes take over, there really aren't going to be a lot of secure places left in the world. And as soon as you've cleared the undead from your prison, remote island, or underground bunker, you can be pretty sure someone is going to come along and try to take it all away from you. So you not only have to be prepared to defend yourself against the dead, you also have to be prepared to defend yourself against the living. And shooting a super-scary rotting corpse is not the same thing as shooting a desperate band of survivors who would do just about anything for security.

Medical supplies will run out quickly in a zombie apocalypse, and no one will be making more

Before the discovery of antibiotics, communicable diseases were the leading cause of death in America. Today, the leading causes of death include things like cardiovascular disease, cancer, and stroke — and that's because antibiotics can easily conquer bacterial illnesses. Wound infections used to claim a lot of lives, too, and today antibiotics are the reason a catastrophic injury like a lost limb won't necessarily kill you.

In a zombie apocalypse, though, it's not going to be so easy to get antibiotics or other medications. Quick-thinking people will likely loot all the pharmacies early on, but no one's stash is going to last long. And to make matters worse, the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado points out that infrastructure collapse will make it hard to find clean water, there will be no working sewage systems, and the air will be full of toxic smoke because in an apocalypse things are always burning. Also, stress might kill you, so there's that.

So let's say you're lucky enough to bust into a pharmacy in the early days of the outbreak, what should you stock up on? One doctor suggests grabbing oral rehydration solution, the broad-spectrum antibiotic Moxifloxacine, Oxycodone for pain, Prednisolone for the management of asthma or accidental poisoning, and Diazepam for stress. And keep telling yourself that will be enough because deep down inside you know you're screwed anyway.

The military is probably not as ready for a zombie apocalypse as they think they are

The military thinks they're ready for an apocalypse. According to Bloomberg, they even do zombie apocalypse drills and have a plan in place for "counter-zombie dominance," so we can all breathe easy. The military's countermeasures include blockades and checkpoints, evacuations where necessary, and official radio transmissions that would be broadcast to everyone, so it will be easier for survivors to find military forces. And because zombies aren't people, there are no ethical guidelines holding the military back from just killing every undead fiend who enters the crosshairs. They even envision using nukes to take out the largest hordes, then sending elite military forces to track down and destroy the rest of the zombies.

There are problems with the military's plan, though. For a start, deployed forces would only carry enough supplies for 40 days. That's based on the assumption that most of the zombies would die from starvation or decay within that time period, and that's not necessarily a given. Also, air forces could only function for a few days before fueling operations would cease to function. So it's tempting to think you could just find the nearest military base and ride out the pandemic, but that's probably a little optimistic.

The world has finite resources

The world has huge stockpiles of food, water, fuel, and weapons, so survival is just a matter of finding stuff and grabbing it all. But even if you do that, stockpiles are finite and at some point you're going to have to go back for more — except there won't be any more.

According to the economics blog Centives, the world's cache of food and fuel wouldn't last very long. Once the supply chain breaks down there will no longer be any farmers, fuel refineries, weapons manufacturers, or designer clothing companies. So on the day that the infrastructure collapses, all of the world's supplies are all the supplies the world will ever have, until someone figures out how to put society back together.

So what about fuel? If 10% of the population survives the apocalypse, the fuel will last about 40 days. If it's just 1%, you can figure on being able to fill up your car for just over a year. Now let's do food: Perishable foods would have to be eaten right away because it will only take a few weeks for everything to rot. Nonperishable foods would last a little over two years if 1% of the population survived, but just 82ish days at a 10% survival rate. So it's not really looking good for anyone who doesn't know how to grow potatoes or refine fossil fuels.

There will be plenty of guns, but not enough bullets

So what about guns and ammo? Well, we humans love our guns, and the world is full of them. Centives says if only 10% of the population survived, there would be .7 guns for each survivor, which means you'd have a decent chance of getting your hands on one. If the survival rate was 1%, you could be the proud owner of at least seven guns. Aside from the distribution problem (are you in a gun-heavy area?), there's the ammunition problem. You might get seven guns, but you wouldn't have nearly enough bullets. In fact once the zombie horde reached maximum population, the world's ammunition supply would equal roughly 3.41 bullets per zombie, so you'd better be a pretty good shot.

Of course everyone knows that you shouldn't kill zombies with guns anyway because the noise just attracts more zombies. So really the correct question should be, how many katanas will there be per survivor? Because that's a number that actually means something ... if you know how to sharpen a blade.

All those zombies are just going to rot away anyway

Now it's time to poop all over everyone's apocalypse party with a theory that will make you want to cry and binge-watch every episode of The Walking Dead. Because some people think that if a zombie apocalypse really happens, it's not going to last very long.

According to the New York Post, U.S. National Wildlife Federation naturalist David Mizejewski says nature will take care of the apocalypse, and all we really have to do is find somewhere safe to hole up for like a week. Mizejewski says scavengers and large predators like bears would make short work of zombies, and what the animals wouldn't take down the bacteria certainly would. And this would happen with lightning speed — Mizejewski predicts that all zombies would be reduced to harmless skeletons in less than a week.

Don't despair just yet, though. Mizejewski's prediction leaves out a few important factors, like the part where zombies would be constantly creating new zombies. And Walking Dead zombies, at the very least, do seem to decay slower than actual corpses do. So just because some naturalist said the apocalypse will be short doesn't mean it will be. And hey, it just has to go on long enough for all your debt to go away and for you to raid a Macy's or two, right? After that, we can take the world back. Thanks for the memories. And the designer jeans.