Who Does Better with Respect to Health: the Winner of High Political Office or the Gallant Loser?

Every so often the CLAHRC WM Director reads an article and says, “By Jupiter, why didn’t I think of doing that?” Such an article compared the life expectations of the winners and runners up of 297 national elections across 17 countries.[1] From the Whitehall studies one might have concluded that the winner takes all – the feel-good factor of being a winner in life’s race would presage a longer life-span. Not so. The winners on average live a full 2.7 years less than the losers – a larger effect size than many of the unhealthy behaviours we tackle in public health. US Presidents are known to have the same life expectancy as the general US population, but given their high social class they should live longer. So the stress of high office really might be bad for health. The CLAHRC WM Director posits an inverted U-shaped stress curve:

048 DC - Who Does Better with Respect to Health - Fig 1

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Olenski AR, Abola MV, Jena AB. Do heads of government age more quickly? Observational study comparing mortality between elected leaders and runners-up in national elections of 17 countries. BMJ. 2015; 351: h6424.

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