Elected heads of government may have shorter life: study

Elected heads of government may have shorter life: study

Elected heads of government may live 2.7 years less than the political opponents they defeat, according to a new Harvard study led by an Indian-origin researcher, which found that politicians voted to lead a country may experience premature death.

After adjusting for life expectancy at time of last election, researchers led by Anupam Jena, associate professor at Harvard Medical School (HMS) in US found that elected leaders lived 2.7 fewer years and experienced a 23 per cent greater risk of death compared to runners-up.

"This suggests that the stress of governing may substantially accelerate mortality for our elected leaders," said Jena, also a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"By comparing the lifespans of elected leaders with runners-up, we were able to calculate the mortality cost of winning elections and serving as head of state," said co-author Andrew Olenski, HMS research assistant in health care policy.

The researchers compared 279 nationally elected leaders from 17 countries to 261 unelected candidates who never served in office. The study group was made up of candidates in elections that took place from 1722 to 2015.

The researchers determined the number of years each competitor lived after the last election that they ran in, and compared the results to the average life span for an individual of the same age and sex as the candidate during the year of the election.

The researchers designed their study to overcome the limitations of similar studies of elected officials and other successful individuals.

Earlier research by others found no significant effect on the life expectancies of US presidents, perhaps because the sample size was too small.

In addition, presidents would be expected to live longer than the general population due to higher socioeconomic status alone.

The failure of prior studies to detect a difference suggests that mortality costs of being president may have been masked, researchers said.

The study was published in The BMJ.

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