Your smartphone can tell a lot about your mortality risk


You probably guessed it: around the world, researchers are studying different ways to predict a person’s risk of death. And among the things that can be used to make those predictions is the person’s gait.

Previous studies have already sought to predict the risk of mortality by analyzing this gait either by equipping participants with specific connected bracelets, or by analyzing people’s gait under laboratory conditions.

6 minutes of recording per day is enough

But according to new research from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, a smartphone is actually enough to know a person’s risk of death. To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed information available on the UK Biobank database. They concern 100,000 participants who wore activity trackers for a week.

These participants wore trackers attached to their wrists (therefore, fitness bracelets). However, as part of this study, the researchers only used the intensity of the walk, a data that can also be collected by a smartphone.

And the study indicates that it was able to validate a mortality risk prediction model, thanks to 6 minutes of walking measurements per day, as well as demographic data.

“Our results show that passive measurements with motion sensors can achieve similar accuracy to active measurements of walking speed and walking rhythm”say the authors. “Our scalable methods offer a feasible route to national health risk screening.”

A study that could continue with more data

In other words, according to these researchers, with the right algorithm, a mobile application could one day analyze your gait for 6 minutes a day, and know your mortality risk over 5 years. No need to wear a connected bracelet, or to go for a specific test.

If the study may have limitations, the New Atlas site indicates that a larger experiment would already be planned, with data collected directly via smartphones (instead of simulating data collection from smartphones with bracelets). The researchers would also like to continue this study with a greater diversity of people, so that the predictions are more precise, and that they can be used by other populations.

All of this may sound creepy. But for the authors of the study, such a system could also be beneficial to Humanity.

“This is particularly important for reasons of health equity, given that the populations most at risk for health are often the least endowed”, explain the authors. Indeed, the system they designed only requires a cheap smartphone.

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