New Metric for Predicting Life Expectancy

It can be difficult to conceptualize the impact that an unhealthy lifestyle can have on our overall health. Health-adjusted lifestyle expectancy (HALE) provides the relative life expectancy we can assume based on our current lifestyle. HALE provides the number of years a person can expect to live in good health, based on the current patterns of mortality and morbidity. This metric essentially adjusts your life expectancy based on the amount of time you have lived in less than perfect health. It factors in various demographics and healthy lifestyle factors, such as smoking, diabetes, physical activity, diet, and others. Rather than reporting how much our risk of death is increased with certain habits or behaviors, this metric provides an easier way of understanding the impact on our life expectancy.

Example of a HALE score and the information provided.

Example of a HALE score and the information provided.

Your HALE score will tell you your predicted future health years and your predicted future unhealthy years, or the time you can expect to live in poor health or disability. Additionally, it will provide your predicted life expectancy. An important factor to note is that this metric does not take into consideration genetics or other diseases/disabilities an individual may have.

This new tool is important as it provides an expected life expectancy based on your current lifestyle patterns. While initial values may be shocking, it is important to note that lifestyle adjustments can be made to increase your life expectancy and improve your health. The HALE provides how your lifestyle impacts your healthy life expectancy by providing recommendations for ways you can improve your lifestyle. For example, it will note how much time you could add onto your life expectancy by improving your exercise.

It is important to note that it is never too late! Research has shown that even adopting five healthy lifestyle habits midlife (age 50) can add up to 10 years to your life (i.e., exercising, healthy diet, healthy weight, not smoking, alcohol in moderation). Each single lifestyle change that is made will help an individual live longer and better. The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help by providing interpretation for your HALE score and providing consultations specific to exercise, nutrition, goal setting, and overall health. We can help provide support for adhering to living a healthier life. If you are interested in learning your HALE score, you can click on the link here:

By Matt Lewandowski

Sources: Health Status Statistics: Mortality – Healthy life expectancy (HALE). World Health Organization.; Healthy Life Expectancy Calculator, developed by the Goldenson Center at the University of Connecticut, retrieved from: https://apps.goldensoncenter.uconn.edu/HLEC/.; Mehta, M. & Myrskyla, N. (2017).  The population health benefits of a healthy lifestyle:  Life expectancy increased and onset of disability delayed.  Health Affairs, 36(8), 1495-1502; Li et al. (2018). Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population.  Circulation, 137(2).

Healthy Lifestyle Helps to Increase Life Expectancy and Delay Disability

Average age of disability for individuals with and without behavioral risk factors.

Average age of disability for individuals with and without behavioral risk factors.

A healthy lifestyle is associated with improved health outcomes later in life. Research has found that those who have not smoked, not been obese, and drank alcohol in moderation had longer life expectancy and delayed the onset of disability.  Nearly 80% of Americans have reached their fifties having smoked, been obese, or both.  Researchers studied those who were ages 50 or older who never had any of these risk factors. They found that these individuals had a favorable behavioral profile, meaning they were more inclined to have positive health outcomes.  These individuals had a life expectancy at age 50 that was 7 years longer than those with these risk factors.  Additionally, these individuals delayed the onset of disability by up to 6 years.  In other words, having a favorable behavioral profile and establishing a healthy lifestyle when they were younger helped to increase life expectancy and delay the onset of disability.  These findings illustrate the damaging effects that behavioral risks have on health at older ages.

This study emphasizes the importance of establishing healthy behaviors early in your life, however, it is never too late to adopt healthy lifestyle habits.  A separate research study found that adopting 5 healthy lifestyle habits midlife (age 50) can add up to 10 years to your life expectancy.  Additionally, they note that each single lifestyle change adopted will help an individual live longer and better.  The five healthy lifestyle habits they note are not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, adopting a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight (BMI <25), and engaging in regular exercise at least 30 minutes per day. Coupled together, these findings demonstrate the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle for increasing life expectancy and delaying disability onset.  It is important to note that it is never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle and that even at age 50, adopting a healthy lifestyle can help add 10 years onto your life expectancy.  The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help by providing support for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and increasing life expectancy.

By Matt Lewandowski

 

Sources:  Mehta, M. & Myrskyla, N. (2017).  The population health benefits of a healthy lifestyle:  Life expectancy increased and onset of disability delayed.  Health Affairs, 36(8), 1495-1502; Li et al. (2018). Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population.  Circulation, 137(2). Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash