LONDON – Health researchers have developed a scientifically rigorous death risk calculator that predicts a person’s risk of dying within five years and say they hope people will use it to improve their health.
Using a simple set of around a dozen questions about such things as the number of cars you own or whether you tend to be a slow or, better, a fast walker, the predictor can give a five-year death risk calculation for any Briton aged between 40 and 70 years old.
The researchers who developed the calculator with Sense About Science, a U.K. charity that works to help people make sense of scientific and medical claims, say it could improve health awareness and also in future be used by family doctors to identify high-risk potential patients.
“The score can be measured online in a brief questionnaire, without any need for lab tests or physical examination,” said Andrea Ganna from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, who co-led the work and published it in The Lancet medical journal.
To create the score, Ganna and his colleague Erik Ingelsson from Sweden’s Uppsala University, analyzed data collected for the U.K. Biobank between 2006 and 2010 from nearly half a million adults aged between 40 and 70.
They used a statistical survival model to assess the probability that 655 specific demographic, lifestyle and health measurements could predict death from any cause, and from six specific causes, in men and women separately.
Ganna cautioned, however, that 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 taking more exercise, quitting smoking and eating a healthier diet, he said.
As well as the five-year death risk, the calculator — available at a dedicated interactive website www.ubble.co.uk — gives users a so-called Ubble age.
Those whose Ubble age is significantly higher than their actual age should see this as a health warning, the researchers said, and think hard about changing their lifestyle.