UbbLE – the UK’s longevity explorer

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Would you like to know your chances of dying in the next five years…?

In an age of increasing cyber-crime and fears over “Big Brother” spying on our every movement, it is understandable that we are naturally cautious about mass data collection. However, there are still examples of when this can be used to our advantage.

A recent example has emerged in the form of UbbLE – the UK longevity explorer. The ‘bb’ part of the name refers to the UK’s Biobank, which is a charity that recruited 500,000 people from across the country aged between 40-69 years from 2006-2010 willing to undergo long term monitoring of their health. The information so far gleaned, which covers over 650 measurements per person, has been used by two Swedish scientists to produce an online ‘risk calculator’. This estimates the risk of death in the next five years for anyone aged between 40 and 70.
A calculator

If you fall into that age band, it is worth having a look at the calculator
(http://ubble.co.uk/risk-calculator/). It will not ask you 600+ questions, just 13 for men and two fewer for women. Some are what you might expect – age, smoking habits, etc. – but others are more surprising, questions like “how many cars/vans are owned, or available for use, by you or members of your household?” The mix and content of the questions is the result of analysing all the data collected so far to find the best predictors of short term mortality. For example, the car/van question works because research revealed it is closely correlated to wealth, which is an important factor in mortality (hence the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea boasting the best UK life expectancy).

The probabilities generated by the calculator are just that – UbbLE says that they are “in no way intended to be an accurate prediction of the relevant risk related to a specific person”. They do, however, serve as a reminder of the fragility of life and how it is never too early to plan for those two well-known certainties…

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