For a score of zero, which means a 3 percent chance of dying within 10 years, you’d have to be a woman younger than 60 without any of those infirmities – but at least slightly overweight.
It’s hardly surprising that a sick, older person would have a much higher chance of dying than someone younger and more vigorous, and it’s well known that women generally live longer than men. But why would being overweight be less risky than being of normal weight or slim?
One possible reason is that thinness in older age could be a sign of illness, Cruz said.
Other factors could also play a role, so the index should be seen as providing clues but not the gospel truth, the research suggests.
The findings were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Grants from the National Institute on Aging and the American Federation for Aging Research helped pay for the study.
The researchers created the index by analyzing data on almost 20,000 Americans over 50 who took part in a national health survey in 1998. They tracked the participants for 10 years. Nearly 6,000 participants died during that time.
They previously used the test to predict the risk of dying within four years. They said their new effort shows the same index can be used to predict 10-year mortality.
Dr. Stephan Fihn, a University of Washington professor of medicine and health quality measurement specialist with Veterans Affairs health services in Seattle, said the index seems valid and “methodologically sound.”
But he said it probably would be most accurate for the oldest patients, who don’t need a scientific crystal ball to figure out their days are numbered.