Doctors claim to have found a way to predict a person’s risk of dying in the next five years – using a simple questionnaire.
With predictable questions on smoking habits and history of illness, but also more nuanced inquiries about the pace of your walk, your attitude to your own health and even how many cars you own, researchers behind the new “Ubble” questionnaire said they could give 40 to 70-year-olds a mortality risk “score”, and even an alternative “Ubble age”.
The scores are based on an analysis of health information from more than half a million adults in the UK, carried out by experts at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.
It has been tested on more than 35,000 patients enrolled at two health centres in Scotland and found to have around 80 per cent accuracy.
From today, members of the public can log onto the ubble.co.uk website to try the quiz, which contains 11 questions for women and 13 for women.
The researchers behind the quiz said that while it should not be viewed as a “deterministic prediction”, it would allow people to understand their own risk without recourse to lab tests or physical examination.
However, other experts said the online test might unduly alarm people and lead to a rise of so-called “cyberchondria”.
The study which provides the basis for the test is published today in The Lancet medical journal.
Co-author Dr Andrea Ganna, of the Karolinska Institutet, said: “The fact that the score can be measured online in a brief questionnaire, without any need for lab tests or physical examination, is an exciting development. We hope that our score might eventually enable doctors to quickly and easily identify their highest-risk patients. Of course, the score has a degree of uncertainty and shouldn’t be seen as a deterministic prediction.”
The researchers said that that self-reported information, such as usual walking pace and illness and injuries in the past two years, was generally a stronger predictor than measures such as pulse rate and blood pressure.
Self-reported walking pace was also a stronger predictor of death risk than smoking habits and other lifestyle measurements.
After completing the questionnaire, participants, who must be aged between 40 and 70, are given a percentage likelihood of dying in the next five years, as well as an “Ubble age”: the age at which an average person in the general population has the same five-year mortality risk.
To create the test, researchers used a statistical model that looked at 655 specific demographic, lifestyle, and health measurements that could predict death from any cause and also six specific causes.
Also writing in The Lancet, Professor Simon Thompson and Peter Willeit from the University of Cambridge, said that the idea of an Ubble age was similar to the widely-used concept of a heart age for patients at risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Whether this will help individuals improve self-awareness of their health status, however, or only lead to so-called cyberchondria, is a moot point,” they write. “Moreover, five-year mortality is easier to predict than long-term morbidity, or quality of life and life expectancy, all of which are more important to individuals and to society.”
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