RISK BITES: Making sense of life and death risks using microlives

by Ishani Hewage on June 19, 2013

We know that there are some things we do that are better for us than others. Eating five veg and two fruits is certainly better for you than smoking a packet of cigarettes a day. But how do we actually measure the impact of the things we do – or don’t do –  on how long we are likely to live?

Microlife No Border 750x400

In this week’s Risk Bites, Andrew Maynard takes a look at the “microlife” as a way of estimating the longer-term impact of our actions.

A microlife is the probability of something you do increasing or decreasing your expected lifespan by 30 minutes.  Most things we do can be expressed as microlives: Being a man rather than a woman will cost you four microlives; being considerably overweight can cost you upwards of 2.5 microlives; and smoking 15-20 cigarettes a day could cost you 10 microlives each day.  As for things that increase your life expectancy, twenty minutes of moderate exercise from rest is worth two microlives and eating five veg and two fruits a day is equivalent to four microlives.

There are obviously other factors to consider when it comes to understanding how long are likely to live and the quality of life you will have, but microlives are a useful way to make sense of what’s good and bad for you.

For more information on microlives, check out this week’s Risk Bites video and see the links information below for further information.


Microlives (a measure of chronic risk):

Micromorts (a measure of acute risk):

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