By Dr. Willie Ong
Have you heard of the Death Calculator? Well if you haven’t, then you’re in for a treat. It’s a simple question and answer test that may determine how long you’ll live. Originally created by Dr. David J. Demko, a Professor of Gerontology and Research Methodology from the University of Michigan, the Death Calculator has 50 questions.
However, since some of the questions aren’t applicable in our setting, I’ve made a simpler version to give you an idea what it’s about. (If you want the complete version, visit www.demko.com)
Here’ s how it works. According to Dr. Demko, everybody’s got 79 years to start with, since that’s the global age life span. But Filipinos should start at around 70 years, because it’s the Filipino life span. Are you ready? Let’s look at category I.
I. HEREDITY & FAMILY YES NO
- Gender Female +1 Male – 2
- Grandparent 85+ +2 0
- Family with obesity,
- diabetes, heart disease – 2 0
- Two or more daughters +3 0
- A graduate +2 0
If you’re a guy, we get a minus 2 (too hardworking, doesn’t show emotion and shorter life span). Genetics play a big part too. Having a parent or grandparent more than 85 years old gives you 2 extra years!
Got at least 2 daughters? Daughters take care of their parents, that is if they’re in the Philippines. Graduates know how to care for themselves better because they’re educated.
My score: OK, being male cost me 2 points, then I got 5 points with my two daughters and being a graduate. That gives me 3 points in the first category, for a running total of 73 years. Next category please…
II. DIET & EXERCISE YES NO
- Diet of fruit, fish, vegetable +2 – 3
- On and off Diet fads – 5 0
- Daily aerobic exercise +3 0
- Walk or ride to work +1 0
The benefits of diet and exercise are obvious. But the riding to work may not apply in our traffic and polluted streets. Just ignore them if not applicable.
My score: OK, I’ve got 2 points with my fish and veggies diet, so that ups my life span to 75. Great.
III. LIFESTYLE YES NO
- Smoke a pack daily – 4 0
- Live or work with smokers – 1 0
- Alcohol abuse – 4 0
- Multiple sex partners – 6 0
- Living alone – 3 0
On the average, smoking decreases your life span by 4 years, and passive smoking by 1 year. Those living alone are also in danger because no one is there to help them during an emergency. Multiple sex partners will reduce your life span by 6 years because of the risks of sexually-transmitted diseases. But how many is multiple? Probably 3.
My score: I lead a boring life. No to all, so this category doesn’t hurt me. Still 75.
IV. HEALTHY OUTLOOK YES NO
- Annual physical exam +3 – 3
- Use stress management +4 – 3
- Able to laugh at mistakes +1 – 3
- Religious & practices faith +2 0
- Do volunteer work weekly +2 – 1
Volunteerism and charity work make you feel happier and thus live longer. It’s proven already. Those who know how to handle stress also receive 4 additional years.
My score: They say doctors just point the way but are not good at taking care of themselves. Stress, infrequent check-ups… but I do a lot of volunteer work. So I end up with a plus 1. Up to 76 years.
V. RELATIONSHIPS YES NO
- Own a pet dog, cat +2 0
- All friends same age as you – 2 +1
- Relationship of trust/respect +5 – 2
- Are you in love??? +7 0
Dogs and cats give you companionship and love, unless of course they’re rabid and bite you. Incidentally, having a pet fish (a passive pet) gets you only 1 extra year. Can’t talk to your fish, right? Next, if all your friends are the same age as you, then you get a minus two. Why so? Because interacting with people younger or older than you broadens your perspective and makes you feel young at heart.
Now here’s the tricky part. Twelve bonus years for a relationship of love and respect with minimal in-fighting and bickering. Kind of difficult to score, if you ask me.
My final score: Wow, plus 12. So I’m up to 88 when my wife’s in a good mood. But I’ll be down to 76 if we get into a fight.
Obviously, this is just a guide, a game with some truth in it. The lesson here is to improve your lifestyle and add years to your life. As they say, it’s when you think about dying that you start living. Have a great day.