older-adultA recent news release reports that a 12-item “mortality index” may assist in evaluating the longevity of older adults. The clinical tool was reportedly developed by a University of California, San Francisco, team and is based on the data of more than 20,000 adults older than age 50 from 1998 until 2008, from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative sample of independently living US adults. The release notes that the point system is based on the risk factors of older adults and survival rate at the end of 10 years.

Marisa Cruz, MD, first author, clinical fellow with the UCSF School of Medicine, notes that, “The most important thing we found was estimating the risk factors that go into shorter intermediate survival are very similar to risk factors that go into estimating the likelihood of long-term survival … Not one particular risk factor tells you whether or not you are likely to survive, but a host of attributes about your life and your medical conditions will give you a clearer picture,” Cruz says.

The clinical tool is designed to operate on a point system, with the total determining the patient’s 10-year risk of mortality. Researchers explain that age, gender, and medical conditions were given specific points, with adults between the ages of 60 and 64 receiving one point, compared to those older than age 85 who received seven points. The ability to complete cognitive or motor skills such as walking several blocks or managing one’s finances was also considered, with difficulty in performing each aptitude generating one to two points. Health risks were also assigned two points.

“It’s an easily usable simple model with only 12 factors. The clinician can ask the patient ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions about his or her health and functional status, and then can go over how the patient could benefit from certain medical interventions …The goal of health care in general is to improve peoples’ lives, but I think that this project and this model in particular are meant to be able to make sure that people live the highest quality of life they can,” Cruz adds.

[Source: University of California, San Francisco]