New study: Heads of state live shorter lifespans

Posted at 8:17 AM, Dec 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-15 08:17:46-05

Before presidential hopefuls walk out on to the debate stage on Tuesday night, there’s some new research that might give them pause.

A recent study, released this week in the British Journal of Medicine, found that after examining the historical records of 17 countries, those who served as heads of government live 2.7 fewer years and have a roughly 20% increased rate of premature death than runner ups who never held the highest office.

Anupam Jena, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the lead researcher on the study, says that although previous studies compared presidents aging to the overall population and found nothing out of the ordinary, his study recognizes that the “overall population doesn’t get cancer care like Jimmy Carter or heart surgeons like Bill Clinton.”

By comparing heads of state across the world with those who lost the election, Jena believes they more accurately measured the effect of leading a nation on one’s health. While a 2.7 year decrease in life expectancy may not seem like a lot, Jena says that it is “medically significant” and visually apparent to those who have watched our leaders’ age over their terms.

“Bottom line,” he says “you can tell a lot about people’s health by their appearance.”

His study can’t say exactly why politics can shorten lifespans, but he pointed to stress and a lack of time for healthy habits as the two most likely culprits.

As for this current election? According to Jena, the study would seem to “suggest that even among current candidates there could be a mortality or morbidity cost of being elected.”

In an already explosive election, and with more fireworks set for Tuesday night, this is just one more thing for candidates to worry about.