If you are a middle-aged man and want to know if you are going to die in the next five years, you simply need to ask yourself how healthy you think you are.

Whether you would rate your health as excellent, good, fair or poor is a better predictor of death in the next five years for men aged 40 to 70 than physical measures including blood pressure and pulse rate, according to scientists writing in the Lancet medical journal. Other significant questions include how briskly you walk and how many cars you own.

The first major publication from scientists using data from the UK Biobank scores 655 different measures that can affect the chances of premature death. The researchers have used this to put together a short questionnaire. Just 13 questions for men and 11 for women will produce a percentage risk factor for death within five years.

While self-assessed health is the strongest risk factor for men, the strongest for women is any diagnosis of cancer, which is the biggest cause of women’s death in this age group. For people of both sexes who do not have any serious disease or disorder, smoking is the most significant factor.

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