"How we react to works of art depends on who we are, where we are standing and when we encounter them." -- Margaret MacMillan, "War: How Conflict Shaped Us"
How Long Will You Live?
When we're young, we think we will live forever. But we know it's not true. According to the Social Security Administration, roughly 10 percent of the original Baby Boomers have already died -- a few in Vietnam, many more from heart disease, cancer or car accident.
But as we get older, it's hard not to wonder: Just how much more time do we have left? Take this quiz, based on several longevity sources and how-long-will-you-live calculators, and get a best-guess estimate. (You probably need a pencil and paper ... remember those?):
1. Are you ...
A) In your 50s
B) In your 60s
C) In your 70s
D) In your 80s
2. What is your demographic?
A) White male
B) White female
C) Non-white male
D) Non-white female
3. What's your current marital status?
A) Never married
4. Do you have a family history of cancer? (check only one)
B) I've had cancer
C) A parent or sibling has had cancer
D) More than one relative has had cancer
5. Do you have a history of heart disease? (Check only one)
B) I have heart disease
C) A parent or sibling has had heart disease
D) More than one relative has had heart disease
6. How do you drive? (Check all that apply)
A) Usually in the left-hand lane
B) Usually in the right-hand lane
C) Over 15,000 miles/year
D) Always wear a seat belt
7. Do you smoke?
B) Only occasionally
C) Never smoked
D) Gave up more than 10 years ago
8. How's your stress level? (Check all that apply within the past year)
A) Serious worry about family member
B) Death in family
C) Divorced or separated
D) Financial trouble
9. Do you eat right? (Check all that apply)
A) Lots of sweet drinks
B) Lots of vegetables
C) Lots of fruit
D) Lots of carbs
10. Do you exercise to the point of sweating?
11. What's your education level?
A) Attended high school
B) Some college
C) College graduate
D) Graduate school
12. Wait a second here ... how seriously can we take this quiz?
A) It's science so I believe it
B) Helpful but not authoritative
C) Might inspire me to improve my lifestyle
D) Utter nonsense
Your Answer (with a few caveats):
Everyone starts with the number 84, which according to Social Security actuarial tables represents the overall average life expectancy of Americans in their mid-60s. Then, to figure out your own individual life expectancy, add and subtract according to your answers to the questions.
1. If you're in your 50s, subtract 2 years. In your 60s, no change. In your 70s, add 3 years; in your 80s, add 7 years. (If you're younger than 50, you shouldn't be reading this blog; and if you're in your 90s, you're way beyond a quiz like this!)
2. If you're a white male, subtract one year. White female, add two years. Non-white male, subtract 4 years. Non-white female, subtract one year. (Figures are from the CDC).
3. Never married: subtract one year. Currently married: add one year. Divorced or widowed, no change
4. If you answered A) add one year. If you answered D) subtract one year. If you answered B), then it's hard to generalize, but cancer survival rates are improving all the time. On average, subtract 3 years.
5. If you answered A) add one year. If you answered D) subtract one year. If you answered B) then again, it's hard to generalize, but treatments are continually getting more effective. So on average, subtract 2 years.
6. Add one year if you tend to drive in the right-hand lane, and another year if you answered always wear your seat belt. Subtract one year if you drive in the left-hand lane (in other words, if you are prone to speeding) and subtract another year for answering C), or over 15,000 miles a year.
7. Add 2 years if you never smoked; add one if you gave up more than 10 years ago. Subtract one year if you smoke occasionally (one pack of cigarettes a month, or one cigar a week = "occasionally"); subtract 2 years if you smoke half a pack or more a day.
8. Add one year if you checked no items. Subtract one year if you checked 2 or 3 items; subtract 2 years if you checked all 4 items.
9. Add one year if you checked both B) and C); subtract one year if you checked both A) and D). Otherwise, no change.
10. Add two years if you checked A) for regular exercise. Subtract one year if you answered D) for never.
11. Subtract one year if you checked A) and have no college experience. Add one year if you checked C) or D) -- there's a benefit to graduating from college but no appreciable actuarial benefit to more education.
12. Subtract one year if you answered A). (You're too gullible.) Subtract one year if you answered D). (You're too cynical). Add one year if you answered C) -- because no matter what our age we can always improve our prospects for a long and healthy life.
The final number you end up with is an estimate of how long you can expect to live. But as you might imagine, this is a fairly short-handed quiz, and it's more a suggestion than a prediction. If you want something more comprehensive and therefore more accurate, I'd recommend the long-form calculator from the University of Pennsylvania.
P. S. According to this quiz, I'll live until age 89, and B will live to 96. Which seems about right to me. Good luck ... and good health in 2015!