UbbLE: The questions that predict when you'll die

A short set of questions could let middle-aged Brits know whether they need to make plans after 2020.

A new risk calculator put together by Swedish scientists is meant to show the likelihood of death in the next five years for 40 to 70 year-olds living in the U.K., simply by asking up to 13 online questions.


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The UbbLE—or the U.K. Longevity Explorer calculator—draws on a raft of data collected through the U.K. Biobank, a project which gathered blood samples, bio measurements, along with detailed questionnaires from nearly half a million volunteers in the same age group between 2006 and 2010.

Swedish researchers Andrea Ganna and Erik Inelsson are the brains behind UbbLE. They monitored participants until February 2014 to determine which of 655 demographic, health and lifestyle variables within the U.K. Biobank were associated with death in a five-year time span.

Ganna and Inelsson found that a short questionnaire could more accurately predict someone's short-term mortality than physical exam by a practicing doctor.

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Questions like those asking people to rate their overall health and to report their walking pace were some of the strongest determinants for various causes of death, ranking higher than variables like smoking habits.

For example, 40 to 52 year old men who reported a 'slow' walking pace are 3.7 times more likely to die than those who described their gait as a 'steady average pace.'

Some portions of the questionnaire differ for men and women, though, with women asked including the number of children. Men were asked two more questions than their female counterparts like how many relatives they live with, and how many vehicles they own.

For now, it's not known how accurate the UbbLE risk calculator could be at predicting death for people in other countries. But, according to its website, the calculator could also help out countries that are similar to the U.K. in terms of demographics, healthcare and lifestyle.

Some UbbLE Risk Calculator questions include:

  • How many cars or vans are owned, or available for use, by you or members of your household?
  • How are the other people who live with you related to you?
  • Including yourself, how many people are living together in your household?
  • In the past how often have you smoked tobacco?
  • In general how would you rate your overall health?
  • Do you have any long-standing illness, disability or infirmity?
  • How would you describe your usual walking pace?
  • Have you ever seen a general practitioner (GP) for nerves, anxiety, tension or depression?
  • Has a doctor ever told you that you have had cancer?