Could Selfies Be Your Passport to Healthier Insurance?   

By Zurich

We all do it – well, most of us. Taking pictures of ourselves on our smartphones for the sole purpose of posting them online for other people to see, like and comment on.

Social media is awash with selfies. They have – quite literally – become the face of a generation.

Up to this point, selfies have just become part of our modern culture. But what if they could do so much more? What if they were about to become one of the most powerful predictors of your future health and wealth?

This is no longer the realm of science fiction. Thanks to a new program called ‘Chronos’, your facial lines and contours, droops and dark spots could indicate how well you’re ageing, and could someday help underwriters qualify people for valuable life insurance.

Your face tells your own unique story

Two people of the same chronological age rarely experience the same rate of biological ageing.

Chronos claims that by analysing an image of someone’s face, they can return the most precise, reliable and individualised lifespan estimates attainable. This is achieved by measuring their rate of biological ageing through facial analytics, which is what accounts for individual differences.

For example, it remains a fact that some people smoke and live to be 100 while some non-smokers die of lung cancer at an early age. With facial recognition technology, it is now possible to identify smokers who are likely to live longer.

How would it work?

Chronos combines three aspects:

• Patented facial analytics.

• Biodemographic information in the form of a questionnaire about things like family history.

• Analysis of life event data by a team of experts.

A customer would upload a selfie to an online database and answer industry standard questions around health, lifestyle and other decision factors.

The facial analytics technology would scan hundreds of points on their face and extract certain information, including body mass index, physiological age and whether they’re ageing faster or slower than actual age.

The program verifies a customer’s identity by comparing the photo to the one on their driver’s licence or another form of government- issuedID.

The pros and cons

While this technology is still subject to regulatory approval the potential benefits are already becoming apparent.

For the life insurance customers of the future, facial recognition could be used to minimise the number of medical tests required, while also keeping underwriting accurate, and potentially reducing the waiting time in a typical application – providing much more tailored policies and premiums.

What happens when someone thinks they’re healthy but facial analysis tells a different story? And of course, from a privacy perspective, what about those people who may not be comfortable providing such photos?

Another crucial factor in the uptake of this technology is its validity. Does this really work in 100% of cases? Inaccurate predictions of health are no good for either the customer or the insurer, so rigorous testing and time will stand to tell which new approaches prove effective.

In other words, it could be some time before you can rely on such an approach.

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