Agehacking: How Long Will I Live?
How long will I live? Asking this question is taking a big step towards acknowledging both your mortality and contemplating deeply your life, goals, and potential. What if you knew exactly what day you’ll die? How would that change how you live today?
Well, science and technology are in such a place that we can get some pretty good estimates on this. What we are talking about here is life expectancy. Life expectancy is an average statistical measure referring to how long a member of a given population is expected to live. Given that overall life expectancy is the average years of life of a specific cohort of people, global life expectancy since 1900 has more than doubled to over 70 years old, thanks to advances in science (like vaccines and antibiotics) and a remarkable reduction in child mortality.
Even so, there are major inequities in life expectancy. For example, there is a 30 year gap between average life expectancy in the Central African Republic (53) and Japan (83). For that reason, it’s important to find a life expectancy calculator that takes into account statistical information most closely linked to your own population. Remember, a lot of information can be gleaned from statistics like ethnicity, income, postal code, and weight across a common target population. Therefore, for American’s it is best to use calculators that take into account data from the US, for British it’s best to use calculators based upon UK statistical assumptions, etc. However, it may not be possible to find an online test tailored to each country and dataset. Taking into account that advice, here are a few high quality longevity calculators:
Blue Zones True Vitality Longevity Test: Developed in Partnership with University of Minnesota School of Medicine, this 3-5 minute test goes pretty deep into your eating habits and social life. Blue Zones is a publisher that focuses on research done around the world’s “blue zones” which are pockets of “super-agers” around the planet found in Italy, Greece, Japan, and California. Their literature aims to share the secrets of these super-ager communities with the broader world. The test results provide you with both your Life Expectancy - how long they estimate you will live, and your “Healthy Life Expectancy” - that is to say, years free of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. They also provide tailored advice on how to increase your life expectancy (quit smoking, reduce meat, increase grains, etc.). One caveat is that only after taking the test do they inform you that you must sign up to receive your test results. They also advertise courses on lengthening life with the test results.
Blueprint Income Life Expectancy Calculator: Developed by professors at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, this calculator is based upon over half a million data sets from the National Institutes of Health. This calculator takes only 1-2 minutes and covers surface level information (Age, sex, ethnicity, income height, weight, smoking history, drinking history, fitness). At the end, it provides you with a breakdown of how your longevity will expand or shrink given certain lifestyle changes. As above, they use the opportunity to advertise, in this case personal pension annuities.
Livingto100 Life Expectancy Calculator: Developed by the founder and director of the New England Centenarian Study - the largest study of centenarians and their families in the world - this calculator asks 40 questions about health and family history and takes around 10 minutes. It asks comprehensive questions related to your lifestyle, social life, diet, medical history (have your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers on hand if possible), and family medical history. As with Blue Zones, it requires you to register to receive your life expectancy calculation. Lastly, they provide a set of personalized feedback on how to add years to your life. The tips are simple and actionable, like taking aspirin daily, ensuring you include calcium supplements, and cutting back on working hours.
MyLongevity Life Expectancy Calculator - An app developed by the University of East Anglia, in Norwich, England, is ideal for anyone looking for a UK-centric calculator, as it allows you to enter postal code to get additional regional level specificity. You can also unclick the UK and get a general reading as a non-UK resident. This test is quick and easy, taking only a minute of two. It also tells you your % risk of stroke or heart attack in the next 10 years (QRISK2 score).
Overall, I found the process of taking all these tests enlightening. As an extremely active pescatarian mid-thirty-something, my life expectancy landed between 85.4 and 96 years. Most notable in the differences in calculation is the fact that the calculators that included much more detailed questions about social life, diet, and medical history (Blue Zones and Livingto100), my results were in the mid-90s range, whereas the more basic tests (Blueprint and MyLongevity) my results were in the mid-80s. I am under the impression that the former calculators are a few degrees more accurate and complex than the latter calculators. Given how quick they all were, it couldn’t hurt to take 30 minutes and take all of them - as they all provide unique insights into drivers of longevity - and get a bespoke comprehensive analysis of your life expectancy!