Life expectancy reflects the average actual number of years of life for a group of individuals with similar characteristics. It may be defined by additional years of life, as we have done here, or to a certain age. The life expectancy estimates that we are providing are based on the actual long-term survival experiences of study participants with spinal cord injury (SCI).
Life expectancy estimates do not reflect the expected number of years of life remaining for any given individual. Some individuals will not survive as long as their life expectancy estimate, while others will survive longer. In reality, no one lives to their exact life expectancy estimate.
The estimates from this calculator are for general purposes only. They will help you to see how, on average, life expectancy after SCI relates to a number of factors. If you have concerns about your own life expectancy and what you can do to improve your health, quality of life, or longevity, you should talk to your healthcare provider.
Please provide feedback and help us improve the SCI Life Expectancy Calculator by completing a brief survey.
Our Life Expectancy calculator used the following factors:
- Current age
- Cause of injury
- Current level of SCI (diagnosed by a physician or other SCI specialist. It is the functional level of injury - where the spinal cord injury happened)
- Current completeness of SCI, also described as the AIS (diagnosed by a physician or other SCI specialist). It reflects how complete the injury was in the extent to which there is sensation and motor function below the level of the injury itself
- Family income
- Highest level of education
- Hours working for pay per week
Source of data:
The data upon which the calculations are based are taken from a study of socioeconomic factors and life-expectancy using data from the SCI Model Systems (Krause, Saunders, & Acuna, 2012).
- There are many other factors that relate to life expectancy that are not accounted for within this formula. We are unable to include other factors here because we have used the findings from a single study. From the research standpoint, it is simply difficult to include more factors into a study design.
- The other factors which would modify the life expectancy include health status, health behaviors, and even family history (genetics). Those who avoid secondary health complications, like pressure ulcers and infections, will have greater life expectancy.
- Those with SCI who maintain a healthy lifestyle, such as getting exercise and not doing risky behaviors like smoking, excessive use of alcohol, or misuse of prescription medication, will have a greater life expectancy (If you have questions about the potential adverse effects of your medications, you should talk to your healthcare provider).
- Certain assumptions are made with the calculator. The calculator assumes that your responses will not change over time, except for age. On rare occasion, there may be a change in an individual’s neurologic status which could change the prediction.
- The calculator will underestimate life expectancy when socioeconomic factors change favorably over time, including increases in education, hours working, and family income. For instance, if you are currently in school or planning on attending school, the life expectancy estimate will increase as education increases. Similarly, if someone is not currently working and has a relatively low family income, then goes to work and income increases, the life expectancy estimate will increase.
- On the other hand, the calculator will overestimate the life expectancy when socioeconomic factors change unfavorably over time. For instance, if someone is currently working and has a high family income, the calculator will likely overestimate life expectancy because it assumes no decline in either hours per week spent working or income as individual’s age. More accurate estimates may be obtained by allowing changing assumptions, but that is beyond the purpose of this calculator.
- There are ways to account for these types of changes, but it cannot be done simply within this type of calculator, so we are pointing out the limitations for you to keep in mind as your educational, employment, and family income may change.
- Because of study limitations, the estimates related to some variables, including race-ethnicity, are based on rather small numbers. Estimates for those of Hispanic origin, as well as those who are of Asian, Native American, or other descent may be less precise and higher than for white, non-Hispanic participants. The calculator is designed so that you can enter alternative responses for any item to see how much change there is in the life expectancy estimate.
- Life expectancy estimates are only general estimates that vary from study to study and the number and type of characteristics used in the prediction.
Disclaimer: You should never base healthcare or other important decisions solely on individualized calculators or other types of printer online materials. This calculator is only intended to be one tool to help you understand how certain factors relate to an important
outcome – life expectancy. You should always consult your physician or other healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns regarding your health, quality of life, or longevity.
Krause, J. S., Saunders, L. L., & Acuna, J. (2012). Gainful employment and risk of mortality after spinal cord injury: effects beyond that of demographic, injury and socioeconomic factors. Spinal Cord, 50, 784-788. doi: 10.1038/sc.2012.49