Dead Man Walking? Smartphone Data May Predict Mortality Risk

Nov. 3, 2022 — You may be taking a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood or wandering the aisles of the grocery store. Chances are, your smartphone is also along for the ride — perhaps as a podcast player or digital security blanket.

But what if that phone could collect data from your daily cardio activities to determine how long you’ll live?

There may not be an app for that yet, but researchers at the University of Illinois have laid the groundwork for this possibility. the study Recently published in the journal PLoS Digital Health.

“It is well known that people [who] Move more — and walk more vigorously — to live longer, says Bruce Schatz, PhD, a medical informatics specialist at the University of Illinois and co-author of the study. “We tried to see what you could tell. Motion to walk It had some medical value.

Schatz and his colleagues obtained data from more than 100,000 adults aged 45-79 in the UK Biobank, a biomedical database in the United Kingdom. Participants wore wrist sensors for a week as they went about their daily routines, and the researchers analyzed the data from consecutive 12-, 30-second walking intervals for each study participant.

The researchers analyzed the participants’ walking intensity and used it to predict their risk of death each year over a 5-year period.

Because the data was collected from 2013 to 2015, the researchers were able to test the accuracy of the estimates against death records. The team’s predictions closely matched participants’ actual deaths, although the model was slightly more accurate for earlier years than at the 5-year mark.

“It’s not giving you personally, ‘You have 5 minutes to live,'” says Schatz. Rather, “What is the probability that you will die in 5 years or in 2 years?”

However, if an app capable of predicting your date of death becomes available, Larry Hernandez of San Antonio, TX, would be willing to give it a try. He says the 42-year-old is a private health insurance advisor, and technology like this could be an incentive for his clients to improve their fitness.

But Hernandez is also aware of tracking his metrics. He’s lost 60 pounds since starting the running regimen in 2015 and continues to log daily 5K runs on his Apple Watch.

If “today’s activities or tomorrow’s activities actually got me another extra year of life,” Hernandez says, “that would be great.”

Moving towards universal health care

The wrist devices worn by the participants contained accelerometers, which are also among the cheapest smartphones. Schatz says these motion sensors are key to making health information accessible to the public.

Smartwatches and other wearable fitness trackers are becoming increasingly popular—about 1 in 5 American adults wear them regularly. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey – but are not affordable for everyone. However, by 2021 estimates, 97 percent of Americans own a cell phone and 85 percent own a smartphone. drink.

The practical possibilities for using the formula developed by Schatz and his colleagues are vast. For example, a hospital system could potentially monitor most of its patients through their smartphones at the same time, and be alerted to changes in their walking patterns. can pinpoint a medical problem—all without disrupting patients’ lives.

“It’s population screening that’s important. It’s catching things early when you can still do something,” Schatz says. “There’s a real opportunity here to do something for a large number of people.”

Vianna Williams, MPH, sees an opportunity for employers. As director of the International Well-Building Institute in New York City, she helps companies from Hilton to Uber prioritize employee well-being.

“Wearables and sensors, they really help us understand correctable behavior, and that’s where we have the opportunity to intervene,” Williams says, adding that the institute is already working on employee health. uses such technology to help understand trends. “The most important question that these things help us answer is where do we have the capacity to change our behavior in ways that we know can help our health in the long term? “

An app that can predict the likelihood of death could also help close health disparities by being accessible to everyone with a smartphone, regardless of socioeconomic status. As of 2018, even in emerging economies such as Brazil and Indonesia, an average of 45% of people own a smartphone. Pew Research Center survey.

“The benefits of being physically active are undisputed,” says John Carney, MD, associate dean of public health and health policy at the University of Vermont Lerner College of Medicine in Burlington. But physical activity rates among the population [are] Uneven.”

Carney says the work of Schatz and his colleagues contributes to the goal of health equity.

“By creating such a simple, practical technology, you can have many people in a community know what their activity levels are,” she says.

Schatz says future studies should be more racially and ethnically diverse. Although the study participants reflected the UK population, the majority were white. Schatz’s team plans to continue their research through the National Institutes of Health. A research program for all of usAiming to enroll more than 1 million people.

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