None of us likes to think about dying, but maybe we should – especially if we can do something to lessen the risk. Thankfully, we can – thanks to more and more research into mortality predictors.
A recent study in The Lancet medical journal, called 5 year mortality predictors in 498 103 UK Biobank participants: a prospective population-based study, collected measurements from nearly half a million UK volunteers aged 40 to 70.
It is the first study to investigate such a large number of variables as well as examine different causes of death and to involve such a large number of participants.
A website – ubble.co.uk – has been set up to showcase the results of the study, which was conducted by Andrea Ganna and Erik Ingelsson. It also includes an online risk calculator based on the findings that you can use to check your own risk.
The findings show how accurately a variable can predict death within five years.
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Using data in this way revealed five key results.
- The variables that most accurately predicted death from all causes within five years did not need to be measured by physical examination, but could be reported by individuals in response to a questionnaire. For example, asking people to rate their overall health (self-reported health) and to describe their usual walking pace were two of the strongest predictors in both men and women for different causes of death.
- The variables that were most accurate at predicting death differed between men and women. For example, the strongest predictor in men was ‘self-reported health’, whereas in women, it was ‘previous cancer diagnosis’.
- When Andrea and Erik examined only individuals who didn’t have any major diseases, measurements of smoking habits were the strongest predictors of death within five years.
- Psychological and socioeconomic variables were the strongest predictors of external cause mortality, which means, for example suicide and accidentally falling.
- They also found that most variables were less accurate at predicting mortality in older individuals compared with those who were younger, but still within the 40-70 age range.
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The data allowed Andrea and Erik to a create a risk calculator that could use questionnaire answers to predict an individual’s risk of dying within five years.
They used a computer-based approach to automatically select the combination of questions that gave the most accurate prediction of death within five years.
The calculator can use this prediction score to calculate an estimate of an individual’s ‘Ubble age’. You can take the test here.
If your Ubble age is higher than your actual age, you have a higher risk of dying within five years than the average person of your age in the UK. Conversely, if your Ubble age is lower than your actual age, you have a lower risk than the average person of your age.
The researchers hope publishing the findings on the Ubble websites will improve the awareness of individuals about their own health.
What do you think of the findings? Will you check your own ‘Ubble age’ and look at some of the mortality indicators that it might be within your power to change through exercise or diet?