Why It May Be Better to Be the Runner-Up

Synopsis: To test the hypothesis of high powered people aging quicker, Harvard researchers analyzed the differences in health of those elected to office compared to their runner-up, from 17 major western countries (including the U.S.). Researchers extracted data from 1722–2015 that included a total of 540 candidates (279 winners and 261 runners-up). The study was lead by associate professor at Harvard University, Anupam B Jena.

Conclusion: Coming into an election year, the results may make some presidential candidates think twice: of the 540 analyzed in this study, heads of government lived on average 4.4 years less than candidates who never served. However, after adjusting for life expectancy, the number went down to 2.7 years. The mortality hazard for elected leaders vs. runner-ups was 1.23 when taking into account all candidates (alive or dead). The authors conclude that being elected to head of government is linked to “substantially accelerated mortality” compared to runner-ups.


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