Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Elected Heads of State Have Shorter Lives Than Their Losing Rivals, Study Suggests

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Elected Heads of State Have Shorter Lives Than Their Losing Rivals, Study Suggests

Article excerpt

If elected to the presidency, Donald Trump will be "unequivocally ... the healthiest individual ever" to have that job, according to a statement released by his personal physician on Monday.

If that's, ahem, true (Trump's physician, New York gastroenterologist Dr. Harold Bornstein, didn't say what historical data he used to come to that conclusion), Trump, 69, may want to reconsider running for the presidency -- if he wants to live as long as possible, that is.

For a new study has found that people who win elections to head their governments -- whether in the United States or in 16 other democracies around the world -- live almost three years less, on average, than their losing opponents.

"Our findings suggest that elected leaders may indeed age more quickly," the authors of the study conclude.

The study was published Monday in the BMJ's Christmas issue, which focuses each year on topics that the journal's editors say are "quirky and fun," but still scientifically sound (and peer- reviewed).

An ongoing debate

Whether American presidents age at a faster-than-normal rate is a somewhat controversial topic. Conventional wisdom (and some research) says yes, but a 2011 study says no. That study found that American presidents actually tend to live longer than their peers.

But it compared the life expectancy of presidents to that of the general U.S. population -- a comparison that may be misleading, say the authors of the BMJ study.

"Given their higher socioeconomic status, one might expect presidents to live longer than the general population on the basis of known inverse associations between social class and mortality," they write. "The fact that presidents do not live longer may suggest accelerated mortality compared with others of similar socioeconomic status."

That's why they decided to conduct a study that would compare the longevity of elected heads of state with runner-up candidates who never served in those highest posts.

Three centuries of data

The researchers -- from the Harvard Medical School and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine -- gathered data on 540 elected and runner-up candidates for president or prime minister in 17 countries (U. …

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