To understand how this works, it’s important to first consider a few caveats.
Correlation and causation are not the same. In this case, the researchers have highlighted correlations between risk of death and factors such as smoking and chronic health conditions. They aren’t foretelling anyone’s death.
Then there’s the question of who can use this tool to get an accurate result. If you are between the ages of 40 and 70 and you live in the United Kingdom, you are good to go. Others may find the detailed study from which the quiz was derived more useful than the quiz itself, which can be found at ubble.co.uk
There are several interesting findings that could help doctors, public health officials and regular people ask questions that may be relevant to one’s health and longevity, at least for the next five years.
For example, the researchers found that walking pace was a particularly strong predictor of death risk — stronger, they said, “than smoking habits and other lifestyle measurements.” The researchers found that men age 40 to 52 who reported that their walking pace was “slow” were 3.7 times as likely to die within five years as those who reported a “steady average pace.”
The study was authored by Andrea Ganna, a biostatistician at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and Erik Ingelsson, a professor at Sweden’s Uppsala University.
“The researchers found that men age 40 to 52 who reported that their walking pace was “slow” were 3.7 times as likely to die within five years as those who reported a ‘steady average pace’.”
Their findings suggest that a short questionnaire might be a good supplement to or potentially a replacement for a standard physical examination for doctors and other health professionals to use in identifying people with high mortality risk.
The survey asks 13 questions of men and 11 of women. A 59-year-old man, for instance, is asked how many people live in his household and whether they are related; a 59-year-old woman is asked how many children she has had; the man is asked about how many cars are in his household, the woman isn’t; the man is asked about strokes, high blood pressure and heart attacks; the woman about nerves, anxiety, tension and depression. Questions for both sexes cover such topics as overall health, smoking habits, walking pace and whether a person has experienced illness, injury, financial difficulty, marital issues or the loss of someone close.
Some factors, such as psychological and socioeconomic variables, were strong predictors of death causes unrelated to physical health, including suicide or accidental fall.
Among people who didn’t have major diseases, smoking habits were the strongest predictor of risk of death within five years. For men, the most common cause of death was lung cancer; for women, it was breast cancer.
Overall, the results are “reasonably good” predictors of death within five years, the researchers said.
“Some factors, such as psychological and socioeconomic variables, were strong predictors of death causes unrelated to physical health, including suicide or accidental fall.”
To create the survey, the researchers used the UK Biobank, which collected hundreds of data points from nearly 500,000 Britons between 40 and 70. The researchers said they are the first to look at such a wide range of variables in such a large group.
To assess an individual’s risk of dying within five years, the online quiz results are compared with nationwide data and the person is given an “Ubble age.” For example, if you are a 50-year-old man and the results of the survey give you an age of 56, that means your risk of dying is similar to that of a 56-year-old man in the United Kingdom. It then tells you what that five-year risk of dying is.
The findings have been published in the journal Lancet. But this project is remarkable for how interactive and open it is. Anyone can use the tool to see how lifestyle and health factors affect risk of death. People can also look at the association between certain risk factors and age.