Almost everyone has a bucket list to complete before their healthy “golden” years are gone: travel to never-seen places, run a marathon, learn to sail, get a degree, buy a cabin in a special spot, or spend a summer doing something life-changing. But would your plans change if you knew exactly how many healthy years you have left?
There isn’t an app for that (yet), but researchers at the Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research have developed a calculator that they say comes pretty close.
Type in your information and get results
While The Healthy Life Expectancy Calculator isn’t the first of its kind, it is backed up by science. Research supports many factors of this model, such as how exercise, income, education, and diseases like diabetes can impact life expectancy. So, the calculator starts by asking questions based on your:
Then, it digs into your lifestyle choices:
- How many days of the week do you exercise?
- Do you smoke?
- How often do you get into car accidents?
- How much do you drink?
- Do you have type 2 diabetes?
- How do you actually feel about your health?
As you go through the questions, you may find yourself consciously weighing up your lifestyle choices. Are you really be getting enough sleep? Is the number of alcoholic drinks accurate or a guesstimate (or an outright fib!)?
What parts of your life surprise you?
After you hit calculate, the algorithm breaks down the years you haven’t lived yet, pointing to the number of “healthy life” years you have left, along with your “unhealthy life” years.
Fortunately, it doesn’t end on a “death note”
The Healthy Life Expectancy Calculator lists ways you can extend your “healthy years” and tells you exactly how many years it can be prolonged by. (For example, sleeping earlier could extend my healthy life expectancy by 22 months.) Again, many of these lifestyle changes are backed up by science and accessible for most people.
- Get more exercise and stay active.
- Stop smoking, if you smoke.
- Drink minimal alcohol (1-2 units per day for women, 3 or fewer for men)
- Prioritize sleep.
In an article for The Conversation, professor Jeyaraj Vadiveloo says that according to the research team’s estimate, a 60-year-old man who eats right, sleeps well, and stays within a healthy weight range could have 13 more years of healthy living than a 60-year-old man with less-healthy habits.
Of course, the calculator is definitely not an exact science.
It doesn’t account for genetic factors, which can contribute up to 25 percent of your life expectancy. It can’t verify things in the future that are out of your control, such as natural disasters or accidents. Its calculations are based on what we know from research, so immeasurable factors such as stress levels, attitudes, and friendships aren’t accounted for.
Healthy years are the new golden years
Knowledge and time can do great things. If you knew exercise and sleep could help slow down the hands of time and give you more years, would you?
The Goldenson Center’s calculator is admittedly still a work in progress. It’s still too early to say to what extent their findings are accurate and as they refine their calculator, there could be potential to add categories. Other things they could factor in are drug use, type of diet, and children. For now, their hope is that by informing users about healthy habits and what can potentially extend the so-called “healthy years,” people can then actively and consciously make the best of them.
Click here to check out the calculator for yourself.
Allison Krupp is an American writer, editor, and ghostwriting novelist. Between wild, multi-continental adventures, she resides in Berlin, Germany. Check out her website here.