How Long Will You Live? A Reporter Tries Some Lifespan Calculators.

By Stacey Burling
The Philadelphia Inquirer

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Can a lifespan calculator predict how long you will live? Stacey Burling gives it a shot.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

It seemed to be as good a way as any to start researching an article on predicting lifespan. I asked Google, “How long will I live?” It offered me some calculators. The fun began.

Even before I started calculating, I had concluded I should plan for a long life. My mother is still alive at 89.

My father, a lifelong, heavy smoker, made it to 84, though I wouldn’t recommend his last years to anyone.

I’ve got a lot of positive risk factors: female, college education, healthy weight, exercise most days of the week, plant-heavy diet, no chronic health conditions plus good cholesterol and blood pressure numbers. (Don’t hate me. I’m a health writer. I take this stuff seriously.)

I started playing with the calculators. The easiest one was from the Social Security Administration. It’s based purely on averages, and all it wanted was my age and sex. It said an average woman my age, 63, would live to 86.5. This was not terribly helpful since I know I’m not average.

I also tried calculations for a medical train wreck of an age peer. She was the height and weight of an average American woman, 5 foot 4 and 168.5 pounds. (That’s a BMI of 29. Thirty is considered obese.) She smoked, but less than two packs a day, and had diabetes and family history of heart disease, barely exercised, ate a pretty typical American diet, was a heavy drinker, didn’t finish college, slept poorly, and was feeling more stressed out than me.

I wasn’t completely heartless; she had a dog, used seat belts, was a good driver, and didn’t use recreational drugs. Luckily, no one calculator wanted to know all these things.

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