We’re living longer lives than ever before. However, how many of those years will be spent in good health?
The only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes, as the old adage says. While death is unavoidable, the quality of life you have until you die is often under your control.
Our team at the Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research chose to focus on this by constructing a rigorous quality of life metric. How many years of healthy life do you have left before you become ill?
Everyone realises the advantages of having a long and healthy life, but there are also societal and industrial ramifications. Medical costs, financial planning, and health support services are all linked to an individual’s or community’s health.
This measure of life quality is known as “healthy life expectancy,” and its counterpart is known as “unhealthy life expectancy.” We describe entering an unhealthy condition as being disabled to the point that rehabilitation is impossible, and you will remain unhealthy until death.
As a result, life expectancy — a measure of how many years an individual is projected to live in the future – is simply the sum of the two.
Consider a healthy 60-year-old man who exercises regularly, eats well, has a low BMI, and sleeps at least eight hours every night. In comparison to his unhealthy counterpart, he could have an additional 13 years of healthy living. That’s another 13 years of quality time with family and friends.
This is a shocking revelation, not just because of the considerable disparity in healthy life expectancy between these two people, but also because the difference is mostly due to lifestyle decisions under their control.
So, what things lead to a longer, healthier life? Age and gender are two non-lifestyle characteristics to consider. Healthy life expectancy drops with age, assuming all other factors remain constant. In comparison to men, women have a greater healthy life expectancy.
Diet, exercise, and adequate sleep have all been shown to have a significant impact on healthy life expectancy. Other favorable indicators included in our model are one’s level of education, wealth, opinion of one’s own health, moderate alcohol consumption, not smoking, and the absence of Type 2 diabetes. Your healthy life expectancy increases with your level of education and income. It also helps to have a good outlook about your health.
Give it a shot.
Do you want to discover how many healthy years you have left? We created a free online calculator that allows you to determine your healthy, unhealthy, and overall life expectancy. This is an ongoing project.
This is the first time that such a tool has been created. While it’s too soon to test the accuracy of our calculations with actual data, we’ve taken care to ensure that the model assumptions are based on well-known actuarial sources and that the modelling results are reasonable and consistent.
It’s important to remember that healthy life expectancy is just a guess. Unexpected events, such as being hit by a truck, could invalidate your estimate, regardless of how well you control your lifestyle behaviours. There may also be other nonmeasurable elements that influence healthy life expectancy that we haven’t considered in our model, such as stress levels, a happy outlook on life, or social ties.
It’s one thing to live longer. It’s another thing to be well enough to enjoy it. Maroke
Implementing our strategy
Our team intends to investigate some of these industrial uses of healthy life expectancy.
The concept of a healthy life expectancy, for example, can aid retirement financial planning. Your annual retirement spending should not be consistent over the course of your life. During healthy years, more discretionary retirement spending should occur, whereas spending on basic expenses should grow during bad years.
Healthy life expectancy measures can also be considered when designing insurance products. This can safeguard a person from incurring additional essential living expenses during a period of illness. A deferred long-term care or temporary deferred life annuity is one such product, with the deferral period covering healthy life expectancy and the temporary coverage covering the unhealthy period. In comparison to what is now available on the market, this might be a substantially less expensive and more required product.
A relative index could compare an individual’s results to a benchmark healthy life expectancy for someone with “average” traits, because healthy life expectancy is related to quality of life and level of health. This information can subsequently be utilised as a tool for underwriting and forecasting future health-care costs. By including more detailed lifestyle and nutritional characteristics, as well as prior medical history information, our model could also function as a patient screening tool for medical professionals.
We hope that this will be expanded upon by other researchers and practitioners. Using this paradigm, society may then focus on not just prolonging life, but also prolonging quality of life. “In the end, it is not the years in your life that count,” as the adage goes. It’s your life in years.”