Index to Predict 5-Year Mortality of Community-Dwelling Adults Aged 65 and Older Using Data from the National Health Interview Survey

  • Mara A. SchonbergEmail author
  • Roger B. Davis
  • Ellen P. McCarthy
  • Edward R. Marcantonio
Original Article



Prognostic information is becoming increasingly important for clinical decision-making.


To develop and validate an index to predict 5-year mortality among community-dwelling older adults.


A total of 24,115 individuals aged >65 who responded to the 1997-2000 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) with follow-up through 31 December 2002 from the National Death Index; 16,077 were randomly selected for the development cohort and 8,038 for the validation cohort.


39 risk factors (functional measures, illnesses, behaviors, demographics) were included in a multivariable Cox proportional hazards model to determine factors independently associated with mortality. Risk scores were calculated for participants using points derived from the final model’s beta coefficients. To evaluate external validity, we compared survival by quintile of risk between the development and validation cohorts.


Seventeen percent of participants had died by the end of the study. The final model included 11 variables: age (1 point for 70-74 up to 7 points for >85); male: 3 points; BMI <25: 2 points; perceived health (good: 1 point, fair/poor: 2 points); emphysema: 2 points; cancer: 2 points; diabetes: 2 points; dependent in instrumental activities of daily living: 2 points; difficulty walking: 3 points; smoker-former: 1 point, smoker-current: 3 points; past year hospitalizations-one: 1 point, >2: 3 points. We observed close agreement between 5-year mortality in the two cohorts; which ranged from 5% in the lowest risk quintile to 50% in the highest risk quintile in the validation cohort.


This validated mortality index can be used to account for participant life expectancy in analyses using NHIS data.


mortality prediction life expectancy prevention older adults 



We would like to thank Long Ngo, PhD, from the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of Medicine, at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School for his help in discussions of the analysis plan. Dr. Mara Schonberg was supported by a National Institute on Aging K23 award (K23AG028584).

Conflict of Interest Statement

None disclosed.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mara A. Schonberg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Roger B. Davis
    • 1
  • Ellen P. McCarthy
    • 1
  • Edward R. Marcantonio
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of MedicineHarvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical CenterBostonUSA

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