How Long Will You Live?

There are lots of reasons to wonder how long you’ll live. Some people need to choose a number so they can make sure they create and manage a nest egg that will last long enough. Others want to understand  whether science knows enough to ask the right questions and offer a reasonable prediction. Or, maybe you’re just curious!

The way I look at it, we’re probably more likely to practice smart health habits if we’re convinced we need to keep our bodies in good shape for as long as possible.

Underestimating our lifespan may reduce our incentive to live well.

Just so you know, as of 2010, there were more than 53,000 centenarians in the U.S. And the number of adults 90 or older in the U.S. was almost 2 million. That number is expected to quadruple in the next 40 years, by the way.

There are  good lifespan calculators available online that ask some questions and then, based on your answers, tell you how long you should plan to live (assuming you drive safely, stay away from lightening and avoid extremely high-risk adventures!).

The questions asked in these lifespan calculators are based on what is known about relative risk factors, including lifestyle, education, gender, socioeconomic level, current health problems, and others.

Four Lifespan Calculators to Try

  • This calculator is linked to the New England Centenarian Study, and asks about 50 questions in all, which is more than most tools. Looking for signs of connectivity and good health practices, you’ll be asked things like “How many new friendships have you developed in the past year?”and “How do you cope with stress?”and “Do you floss your teeth daily?”  The calculator will explain the relevance of each question and  how your answer affects your predicted longevity.
  • (Click on “Longevity Calculator”) The tool takes into account such factors as family history, personal health and socioeconomic factors.
  • (click on “Tools”): Called the “Vitality Compass,” the tool asks somewhat detailed questions about such things as exercise habits and diet. The calculator will help forecast your healthy  life expectancy, which is how long you can expect to live before being diagnosed with cancer, diabetes or heart disease. The site also provides suggestions for how to live a longer life.
  • Minnesota State Retirement System: Named the “Life Expectancy Calculator,” it asks about 30 questions designed to give you a good estimate of how many more years you’re likely to have.

If you’re concerned about what the calculators are telling you, bring the results to your physician and talk about what you can do now to help ensure a longer and healthier life.

About Barbara Bronson Gray, RN, MN

I'm an experienced healthcare and science editor and journalist. But most of all, I'm a registered nurse with many years of experience working in hospitals. I've learned what patients and families need first hand. But I've also worked to improve hospitals and educate people about their health. I'm committed to helping people take charge of their health care and get what they need from a complex and often discouraging healthcare system.
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