Modeling and inference for survival analysis problems typically revolves around different functions related to the survival distribution. Here, we focus on the mean residual life (MRL) function, which provides the expected remaining lifetime given that a subject has survived (i.e. is event-free) up to a particular time. This function is of direct interest in reliability, medical, and actuarial fields. In addition to its practical interpretation, the MRL function characterizes the survival distribution. We develop general Bayesian nonparametric inference for MRL functions built from a Dirichlet process mixture model for the associated survival distribution. The resulting model for the MRL function admits a representation as a mixture of the kernel MRL functions with time-dependent mixture weights. This model structure allows for a wide range of shapes for the MRL function. Particular emphasis is placed on the selection of the mixture kernel, taken to be a gamma distribution, to obtain desirable properties for the MRL function arising from the mixture model. The inference method is illustrated with a data set of two experimental groups and a data set involving right censoring. The supplementary material available at Biostatistics online provides further results on empirical performance of the model, using simulated data examples.

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