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400 facebook friends and you're a loner

I read an article in the Economist recently about lonely people being more likely to get ill. Lonely people, it seems, are at greater risk than the gregarious of developing illnesses associated with chronic inflammation, such as heart disease and certain cancers. According to a paper published last year in the Public Library of Science, Medicine, the effect on mortality of loneliness is comparable with that of smoking and drinking. It examined, and combined the results of, 148 previous studies that followed some 300,000 individuals for an average period of 7.5 years each, and controlled for factors such as age and pre-existing illness. It concluded that, over such a period, a gregarious person has a 50% better chance of surviving than a lonely one. Ref:

Ed and I recently returned from the USA, where we learned that Life Insurers place a much larger emphasis on moral underwriting. A life insurance application will always have a motor vehicle and felony report attached to help determining risk. Insurers and re-insurers will determine mortality rates based on channel delivery experience. For instance, if you apply for life insurance through an employer scheme, you're far more likely to get offered better rates than if you apply say by phone to a call centre. History of employment has long been deemed a better indicator of mortality than a health report.

Which brings me back to my original thought, imagine the day we asked applicants for access to their FaceBook or LinkedIn profile? A FaceBook user today is loner if he has only 400 friends. Social network users today are life insurance buyers tomorrow. A FaceBook diary is an accurate chronicle of one’s life. FaceBook and LinkedIn could be used as better mortality indicators than a medical test. So should we ask for your Facebook link rather than your medical record? Tomorrows underwriting is a social network link away. How soon cometh the day?

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