There’s one thing we all have in common: we’re all going to die. The majority of us usually push this thought to the back of our minds, but for those more curious there is a new online test that claims to predict your risk of dying in the next five years, provided that you're of age 40–70. Researchers measured a combination of factors in a large number of individuals to create the "Ubble" test.
The study, published in The Lancet, examined 655 different measurements in around 500,000 people aged between 40 and 70 years old, obtained from the UK Biobank. To create the Ubble questionnaire, researchers used a statistical survival model to determine the probability of these measurements in predicting mortality. Researchers then selected the measurements best at predicting death, 13 for men and 11 for women, and created a short questionnaire.
People aged between 40 and 70 can take the Ubble test to determine their risk of dying within the next five years and calculate their "Ubble age," which matches the age given to a risk profile of an average individual from the UK of the same gender. If your Ubble age is lower than your actual age, then you have a lower risk of an early death. If your Ubble age is higher, however, researchers suggest you might need to start making an effort to improve your health.
The study found self-assessed health to be the strongest risk factor for men, but a cancer diagnosis to be the strongest for women. In general, for people who do not suffer from any serious illnesses, smoking was the strongest risk factor for death. While the questionnaire doesn’t ask about weight, it does ask the number of cars a household owns – a predictor of wealth – and the pace at which you walk.
"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, although more research will be needed to determine whether it can be used in this way in a clinical setting," Dr Andrea Ganna, who authored the paper, told The Guardian.
While Ganna admits that the test has a "degree of uncertainty," researchers from the University of Cambridge warn it’s "overoptimistic" to try to identify those at high risk of mortality from the website. In a linked comment article in the journal, Simon Thompson and Peter Willeit argue that a 5-year mortality is far easier to predict than "long-term morbidity, or quality of life and life expectancy," which they suggest are “more important to individuals and to society.”