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Thursday, 31 March 2016

University project to develop software to better forecast when people will die

Written by The Press Association

A new research project aims to develop software that can predict when people are likely to die.

Scientists plan to use data routinely collected by healthcare providers, including information on diseases, treatments and lifestyle habits.

Knowing in advance when to expect the grim reaper could have financial and medical benefits, it is claimed.

For instance, it could help retirement planning or allow patients with chronic conditions to make more informed decisions about their health.

The four year project at the University of East Anglia has received £800,000 in funding from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.

Lead researcher Professor Elena Kulinskaya, from the university's School of Computing Sciences, said: "People around the world are living longer. We want to develop software tools that use big data routinely collected by healthcare providers to forecast longevity.

"When we talk about big data what we mean is data that is vast, complex and difficult to analyse. We want to be able to use it to see statistical life expectancy trends, based on large-scale population-based data collected over the long term.

"We want to identify and quantify the key factors affecting mortality and longevity, such as lifestyle choices, medical conditions and medical interventions."

She pointed out that estimates of life expectancy would "only be true on average, not at the individual level".

Prof Kulinskaya added: "Pension contributions were recently freed, so now people can take their pension pots out and use them as they wish. But to be able to plan for retirement, and to understand how much you can spend, it is good to have some idea of your life expectancy.

"This is exactly what we are trying to do for a number of chronic medical conditions. We also want to be able to estimate how some popular drugs, such as statins or beta-blockers, may affect longevity."

Local authorities planning resources and insurance companies also stood to benefit, she said.

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