Scientists at the University of East Anglia have launched a new app that shows users how various medical and lifestyle factors impact their own life expectancy.
The app uses big data from anonymised health records to forecast how many years a user might have to live, as well as the risk of them having a heart attack or stroke within the next decade.
These forecasts are made using socio-demographic information as well as health characteristics, for example any chronic conditions and medications taken.
It is hoped the new Mylongeviity app will bring practical financial and medical benefits – such as helping people plan for retirement. It is also hoped this will encourage more healthy behaviours and lifestyles as people can see the effect smoking or obesity might have on their life expectancy.
This app as designed before the onset of Covid-19, but the research team say they are working to incorporate hypothetical life expectancy change scenarios into its forecast.
The calculations are based on UK life expectancy figures published by the Office for National Statistics, and refined using UEA research on cardiovascular disease and the benefits of statin use.
Lead researcher Prof Elena Kulinskaya, from UEA’s School of Computing Sciences, says: “We have identified and quantified the key factors affecting mortality and longevity, such as lifestyle choices, medical conditions and medical interventions.
“The software we have developed is based on our research using electronic health records. In our recent analysis of life expectancy, we followed a cohort of 110,000 healthy people who hit 60 between 1990 and 2000 for the next 25 years, updating their health status every six months.
“The results of our analysis are translated into life expectancies for 648 different risk profiles based on age, sex and postcode. The list of risk factors we used include hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, BMI, the risk of a cardiac event within 10 years, smoking status and statin use.
“Our research included people aged 60 and older, resident in England and Wales. For
younger people, we provide life expectancy assuming that they survive to age 60 retaining all their current demographic and health characteristics.”
Kulinskaya says individual lifespans will vary from this average, but this research provides a calculation of life expectancy on “a very fine scale”.
“It will give people some useful food for thought. People are interested in their life expectancy, but it is not just out of morbid curiosity.
“Life expectancy is a big consideration in any long-term planning and it is especially important to people planning their financial goals and retirement strategies. It can also help people improve their life expectancy by making healthy lifestyle changes.”
Kulinskaya adds: “Unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic may result in a decreased life expectancy for some. We are confident that the key application of our tool – helping to show the relative effects of such things as smoking – is largely unaffected, but we plan to fine tune it to explore life expectancy changes caused by the pandemic. ”
The research was based on the results of a research programme on ‘Big Health and Actuarial Data for understanding Longevity and Morbidity Risks’ funded by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) and commissioned through its Actuarial Research Centre (ARC).