An interactive chart that can calculate how a person is likely to die at a specific age has been developed by a statistician at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Nathan Yau has invented this tool based on an individual’s current age, gender and ethnicity.

Yau analysed death certificates of people who died between 1999 through 2014 and noted the cause of death and demographic information. In his blog FlowingData, Yau explains that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arranged the causes of death into 113 subcategories, which fall into 20 categories of disease and external causes of death.

The interactive chart calculates the chances of dying from 15 of the main causes that include cancer, infection, blood diseases, mental conditions, circulatory problems, digestive conditions and congenital problems. “Each dot represents one of your simulated lives, and as each year passes, more of your simulated selves pass away,” Yau explains.

Wikimedia/CDC/Dr. Edwin P. Ewing, Jr.

Wikimedia/CDC/Dr. Edwin P. Ewing, Jr.

“The color corresponds to the cause of death and the bars on the right keep track of the cumulative percentages. By the end, you’re left with the chances that you will die of each cause,” Yau adds. The chart shows that a 30-year-old female white American would probable die due to circulatory problems at the age of 80, followed by cancer, whereas a 20-year-old black American male is most likely to die because of external causes, followed by circulatory conditions.

However, if people enter the current age as zero, then the chart will say that there is a low likelihood of dying in the next decade. Apparently, external causes begin to be the main cause of death once people reach early adulthood while the children during their first 10 years of life have a risk of dying from perinatal causes.

“The main point, which is what you’d expect, is that mortality rate is much lower in the earlier years of life than in the older years,” Yau said. “But, if you do die at a younger age, it’s much more likely due to something external rather than a disease.”

Interestingly, adults over the age of 80 have a 40 percent risk of dying from circulatory health problems. This surprised the statistician because most news led him to believe that people die from cancer.

Yau asserts that the chart only acts as a model of probability because there are numerous factors that can impact how a person will die. Nevertheless, this chart is aimed at giving people, who are not data experts, a chance to quantify their death cause.