If a scientist using an advanced AI program told you it could take all of your health and genetic information and other data, and tell you roughly when you were going to die, would you do it or choose not to know? Usually, people fall into one of two camps. In the first they say that knowing a finite date (or approximate) would motivate a person to live their life more fully. They wouldn’t waste much time or accept mediocrity in relationships or their career. It could be the fuel needed to do the work necessary to make life richer.
Those in the other camp - however - feel that a punch-out date, no matter how well one lives, is simply a total downer. Even happy moments would become tainted knowing that the ever-encroaching hand of death is not too far from their throat. Also, one would always be wondering if they were living fully enough. If they’re stuck in a bad situation and can’t get out of it, knowing the date of their personal doomsday would make it worse.
A group of actuaries took all of this into consideration when they came up with the latest life expectancy calculator. They found a way to calculate how many healthy years one could look forward to, instead of providing a person's approximate expiration date. Depending on how you live your life, this can be more or less depressing. But it could also provide a very important wake-up call for those who aren’t on a healthy path in life.
Jeyaraj Vadiveloo is the director of the Janet and Mark L. Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research at the University of Connecticut. He and colleagues developed an online tool that's grown so popular it crashed for days after it was released. Vadiveloo wrote about the newfangled life expectancy calculator in The Conversation.
Rather than adding years to life, some health experts say we should be adding more healthy years in the time allotted. Credit: Getty Images.
The director said that such information may not only benefit the individual but society as well. After all, both have to figure out how to allocate funds for eventual health problems. Knowing when they might be coming should help with such efforts. It could aid an individual for instance, with retirement planning or a Congressional committee when considering a bill to alter Medicare or social security. It might also lead to insurers developing better products.
This isn’t the only life expectancy calculator out there. In fact, the Social Security Administration has their own. But in this effort, Vadiveloo and colleagues took a different approach. They calculated total life expectancy from two different metrics, “healthy life expectancy” and “unhealthy life expectancy.” The latter was considered when a person could expect to live in a state of disablement with no hope of recovery, until death.
The actuaries found that in addition to living longer, women had a longer healthy life expectancy. But they didn’t pose why. Besides the time honored advice of eating right, getting plenty of exercise, and sleeping right, there were other factors. Education and income level, alcohol intake, smoking, and whether type 2 diabetes was present or not, all played a role. One’s perception of their own state of health, surprisingly, had an impact as well. The best part? Most of these factors are within a person’s singular control.
Vadiveloo in his piece used the example of a 60 year-old man. If he exercises, eats right, and checks all the other healthy living boxes, he can expect to live 13 more healthy years, than a counterpart with an unhealthy lifestyle.
Unfortunately, the actuaries warn that this is still a work in progress. It hasn’t been tested with actual data, yet. However, the modeling for the tool they assure, is accurate and consistent. Of course, it doesn’t look for unseen circumstances, like a fatal car crash or a meteor dropping out of the sky and onto your head.
Want to check out the calculator for yourself? Click here.
One thing it doesn’t take into account however is the impact of the genetic revolution. To find out how that might change life expectancy radically in the near future, click here: