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This Simple Test Predicts Whether You Will Live Another 10 Years

Tim Boyer's picture
How to live longer

In the latest issue of the medical journal JAMA, researchers reveal a 12-question mortality test that can aid clinicians and their patients with benefit/risk decisions by predicting the likelihood that a patient will survive another 10 years.

Using data gleaned from more than 20,000 adults over the age of 50, researchers from the University of California San Francisco have created a 12-question mortality index that can be answered by patients with simple “yes” and “no” responses to determine whether patients will live long enough to benefit from some medical therapies such as prostate cancer treatment.

According to the authors of the paper:

Preventive interventions, such as cancer screening, expose patients to immediate risks with delayed benefits, suggesting that risks outweigh benefits in patients with limited life expectancy. Recent guidelines recommend considering patients' life expectancy when deciding whether to pursue preventive interventions with long lag times to benefit (≥ 7 years) such as colorectal cancer screening and intensive glycemic control for diabetes.

Not only does the test have value in weighing the benefit/risk ratio, but it is also an opportunity for senior citizen patients to actively engage with their physician toward making informed discussions and reaching decisions about their health and how it should be managed in their twilight years of life.

The 12-question mortality index grades patients on a point system where a specific number of points are assigned to a variety of medical conditions, a person’s age, sex and physical as well as mental abilities. For example, adults between the ages of 60 and 64 receive one point, compared to those over the age of 85 who receive seven points. Health risks such as smoking or having a chronic lung disease are assigned two points. The fewer total points a person accumulates on the test, the better are their odds of their continued survival over the next 10 years.

A copy of the 12-question mortality test is provided below with points ranked depending on the response:

1. What is your age? (Please see below for point index)
60-64 = 1 point
65-69 = 2 points
70-74 = 3 points
75-79 = 4 points
80-84 = 5 points
85+ = 7 points

2. Sex (Male/Female) male = 2 points

3. a. Weight: ____________________ b. Height: ____________________
703 X (weight in pounds / height in inches²) BMI

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4. Has a doctor ever told you that you have diabetes or high blood sugar? (Y/N) Yes = 1 point

5. Has a doctor told you that you have cancer or a malignant tumor, excluding minor skin cancers? (Y/N) Yes = 2 points

6. Do you have a chronic lung disease that limits your usual activities or makes you need oxygen at home? (Y/N) Yes = 2 points

7. Has a doctor told you that you have congestive heart failure? (Y/N) Yes = 2 points

8. Have you smoked cigarettes in the past week? (Y/N) Yes = 2 points

9. Because of a health or memory problem do you have any difficulty with bathing or showering? (Y/N) Yes = 2 points

10. Because of a health or memory problem, do you have any difficulty with managing your money--such as paying your bills and keeping track of expenses? (Y/N) Yes = 2 points

11. Because of a health problem do you have any difficulty with walking several blocks? (Y/N) Yes = 2 points

12. Because of a health problem do you have any difficulty with pulling or pushing large objects like a living room chair? (Y/N) Yes = 1 point

The authors of the study warn that the 12-question test is a tool that is designed for physicians to assess their geriatric patients in a medical setting and it is not meant to be used by patients to conduct self-assessments. They advise patients to consult their personal physician if they have questions about their health.

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Reference: “Predicting 10-Year Mortality for Older Adults” JAMA 2013; 309(9):874-876; Marisa Cruz, MD; Kenneth Covinsky, MD, MPH; Eric W. Widera, MD; Irena Stijacic-Cenzer, MA; Sei J. Lee, MD, MAS.