Researchers have discovered a way to track your mortality rate by how you walk

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In recent years, technology has been used to monitor our health. Many of us monitor and track everything in our lives using smart devices, from wearable devices to mobile apps.

But what if this technology could predict when you’re at risk of dying? Scientists believe they have discovered a way to do this.

A study was conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Population Analysis of Mortality: Predictive Models Based on Passive MonitorsThis was Published in the journal PLOS Digital Health.

That’s an extremely scientific and fancy way of saying that they were trying to find out if they could predict mortality rates using the measures of physical activity from wrist-worn accelerometers.

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Although this study was done using a wearable device for the purpose of simulating passive data, the researchers also used smartphones to provide the same information.

According to the study, smartphones are more common in high-income nations than in lower-income countries. They could use the smartphone-collected data to perform population-level analyses, which could help improve public health worldwide.

Take a look at the Study

Using data from 100,000 participants that came from one week of wearing a wrist sensor, researchers designed a model that pared an individual’s acceleration and distance down into six-minute chunks. This model is a simplified version of the popular six-minute walk test, which doctors use to monitor heart and lung health.  

This analysis led to the development of a model that could predict mortality risk. The results were surprising. 76% of their predictions about death were correct after one year. Seventy-three percent of deaths predicted after five years were correct. These results were similar in nature to those of a Published in the Journals of GerontologyIt used hours of data rather than minutes to create the report.

Bruce Schatz (a computer science researcher at The University of Illinois), said that the most recent research could be more beneficial for public health because it demonstrated passive monitoring technology’s capabilities. This technology allows for more analysis as detailed previously, and it is easier to use.

Imagine a world where your doctor has access to vital data about you and can potentially spot health risks like a heart attack. All this without having to make an appointment.

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There are ethical concerns when technology can be used to monitor the user. There are concerns about consenting to the transmission of information to health care providers and lack of technological literacy.

Privacy concerns also exist when it comes to large-scale health analyses that researchers are so excited about. “If you record all of the data, it’s true that people have characteristic walks and you can tell who the individual is,” Schatz told The Daily Beast. “But it’s totally possible to take part of the signal, which is good enough to do the vitals but completely disguises who the person is.”

Schatz stated that although these ethical questions are still speculations, they will be taken into consideration as the research progresses. His team has already examined sensors used in smartphones and cell phones. They will continue to work on smartphones that can be carried in pockets and not on the wrist.

“If you want to raise the general health of the entire population, this kind of project is really important,” Schatz concluded.

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