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Half of older patients miscalculate life expectancy

2nd November 2015

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

A study has revealed that many older people could be inaccurately calculating their life expectancy, which could lead to poorly informed medical decisions. For example, a diabetes patient may not make lifestyle changes if they don’t feel that they will live long enough to reap the benefits, although in reality this could improve decades of their life.

An accurate life expectancy calculation could prove very useful for those considering paying the cost of a stairlift, as this could show that the mobility aid would be a viable investment they will use to remain independent for many years to come. However, underestimating longevity could also mean that people refuse things such as cancer treatments, or other preventative care which could see them live for much longer. For example, some patients might choose a palliative rather than a curative approach to end-of-life care.

Many older people have inaccurate sense of how much longer they’re likely to live

The study asked more than 2,000 adults aged over 64 to predict how likely they felt they would be to live another 10 years and compared these to objective calculations doctors would use for clinical recommendations. While 55 per cent were relatively accurate, more than 3 in 10 people underestimated how long they might live, with 12 per cent overestimating their longevity.

These findings suggest that many older people might be surprised to learn that they have longer to live than they thought, and may be able to prepare both financially and psychologically to make the most of the time they have left. Finances are particularly important, as using these prematurely could lead to poverty in later life.

Lead study author Rafael Romo of the University of California, told Yahoo News: “Whether they are aware of it or not, patients have a sense of how long they have to live and (they) bring this sense of prognosis to their healthcare decisions.”

Image Credit: David Hodgson (flickr.com)