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Politicians win elections and greater risk of early death, new study finds

President Barack Obama, center, walks with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, as they arrive for a group photo with leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila, Philippines, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015.
President Barack Obama, center, walks with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, as they arrive for a group photo with leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila, Philippines, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP,Susan Walsh

When U.S. President Barack Obama met with newly minted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for their first official meeting in November, Obama recalled his first phone call to Trudeau when he said, “If you don’t want to (go) grey like me, you need to start dyeing it soon.”

Obama’s comment may have been a playful anecdote, but a new study from Harvard University found there is a health impact of being an elected of state.

Harvard Medical School researchers compared 279 nationally elected leaders from 17 countries to 261 runners-up who never served in office. The study group was chosen from candidates in elections that took place between 1722 and 2015.

The study found elected leaders lived 2.7 fewer years and experienced a 23 per cent greater risk of death compared to runners-up.

U.S. President Barack Obama pictured in 2009 and 2015

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“This suggests that the stress of governing may substantially accelerate mortality for our elected leaders,”  Anupam Jena, the lead author on the study, said in a statement.

As part of the study researchers analyzed 16 Canadians who were elected  as prime minister versus 12 who finished as the runners up from 1867-2011.

[graphiq id=”603qVHtNFXf” title=”Life Expectancy by Country” width=”600″ height=”493″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/603qVHtNFXf” link=”http://life-span.healthgrove.com” link_text=”Life Expectancy by Country | HealthGrove”]

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.

“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, in a statement.

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The results are published in the Christmas issue of The British Medical Journal, which looks at more offbeat topics in science.

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