Elected heads of government at greater early death risk

Anupam Jena
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BOSTON– Winning the battle of ballot may have its own pitfalls as a new study led by an Indian-origin researcher has found that politicians elected to lead a country’s government may experience premature death.

After adjusting for life expectancy at time of last election, the research team found that elected leaders lived 2.7 fewer years and experienced a 23 percent greater risk of death compared to runners-up.

Anupam Jena
Anupam Jena

“This suggests that the stress of governing may substantially accelerate mortality for our elected leaders,” said Anupam Jena, associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.

“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,” co-author Andrew Olenski from Harvard Medical School noted.

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 results were published in The BMJ (British Medical Journal).


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