Are You Dying To Know?

People aged between 40 and 70 can answer a set of simple questions to gauge their health and find out their chance of making it to 2020. And the scientists claim they do not even need to carry out a physical examination to accurately predict the risk. Instead, people are questioned about their walking speed, financial situation, previous illnesses, marital status and whether they have had previous illnesses. Participants can calculate their five-year mortality risk as well as their “Ubble Age” – the age where the average mortality risk in the population is most similar to the estimated risk. Ubble stands for “UK Longevity Explorer” and researchers say the test is 80 per cent accurate.

To create the test, Professor Ingelsson and Dr Andrea Ganna, from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, analysed data collected between 2006 and 2010 from nearly half a million British adults aged between 40 and 70 years. They then worked out what health and lifestyle factors were the best indicators of short-term death. Surprisingly they found that self-reported health information was generally a stronger predictor of death than biological measurements, such as pulse rate and blood pressure. Walking pace, judged as brisk, slow or steady, was found to be linked more strongly to death risk in both men and women than smoking habits and other lifestyle factors.

CR7WTD_2988212bThe developers say they hope that it will help those people at risk to make lifestyle changes before it is too late. “The fact that the score can be measured online in a brief questionnaire, without any need for lab tests or physical examination, is an exciting development,” said Dr Ganna. “We hope that our score might eventually enable doctors to quickly and easily identify their highest risk patients, although more research will be needed to determine whether it can be used in this way in a clinical setting. “Of course, the score has a degree of uncertainty and shouldn’t be seen as a deterministic prediction. For most people, a high risk of dying in the next five years can be reduced by increased physical activity, smoking cessation, and a healthy diet.”

Last year Finnish scientists found that a simple blood test could predict the chance of death within five years by looking for biomarkers linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. They found that they could spot a general level of ‘frailty,’ which increased the risk of early death. However this is the first test which does not need any biological information of invasive testing. But some experts warned that the test could lead to panic among the worried well. Professor Simon Thompson, Director in Research of Biostatistics, Cambridge University, said: “This concept is similar to that of heart age developed for communicating cardiovascular risk. “Whether this will help individuals improve self-awareness of their health status, however, or only lead to so-called cyberchondria, is a moot point. “Moreover, five-year mortality is easier to predict than long-term morbidity, or quality of life and life expectancy, all of which are more important to individuals and to society.”

The research was published in The Lancet.

Credit: Sarah Knapton, Science Editor, The Telegraph

Of course, nobody is able to predict when our time will be up, except God. Note also that the sample is based on UK population. The test can be taken at a website developed by the UK charity Sense About Science