New research has outlined five techniques to predict an individual’s life expectancy and the number of life years lost due to health issues.

Over the last year, measuring life expectancy has increased in popularity with healthcare professionals and public health organisations.

Scientists from the University of Leicester examined the popular techniques used to estimate the ‘years of life lost’ by analysing several methods, including life tables and statistical modelling.

By using an example from a topic of multimorbidity in the UK Biobank, the team identified how the different methods can be adopted in real-world settings and healthcare research.

They found that the estimated years of life lost changed with each method because each technique concentrated on different aspects.

Top author, Dr Yogini Chudasama said: “This project was initially from my PhD, where at the time there was no simple and comprehensive paper explaining or comparing the methods for the years of life lost calculation, or showing which method I should use for my data.

“This was a challenging task and required a lot of patience and learning to overcome the difficulties encountered.”

Dr Chudasama added: “Collaborating with co-authors and supervisor Dr Francesco Zaccardi, I was able to explore the methods in detail and understand how they are applied to real-world data.

“I am very proud to have this published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, as a tutorial guide for researchers and healthcare professionals, as it will help promote a better and easier understanding of life expectancy metrics in healthcare research.”

Dr Zaccardi said: “Findings from epidemiological studies are commonly reported in terms of relative risk – for example, type 2 diabetes increases the risk of death by two-fold.

“This statement is difficult to interpret because it does not convey information on the absolute risk of death.”

He evaluated: “Years of life lost, conversely, are easily interpretable: in a middle-aged person, type 2 diabetes reduces the life expectancy by five years.

“As different methods exist to estimate life expectancy, in our study we highlighted that decisions should be based on the purpose of the research, the type of available data, and the required flexibility when using complex statistical modelling.”

Fellow academic, Professor Kamlesh Khunti said: “This review is important as years of lost life metrics are simple summary measures that can enhance the interpretation of the findings from epidemiological studies for healthcare professionals and the public.”

The study can now be accessed in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology.

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