Elected leaders die younger, says study of Western politicians

A podium where US Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump spoke after a campaign stop in Spencer, Iowa, on Dec 5.
A podium where US Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump spoke after a campaign stop in Spencer, Iowa, on Dec 5.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - Politicians may achieve a lifelong dream of becoming a prime minister or president, but in doing so they may face the Grim Reaper somewhat sooner than the expected.

So suggests an offbeat study in the Christmas edition of the British medical journal, The BMJ.

Researchers led by Associate Professor in Healthcare Policy Anupam Jena from Harvard Medical School looked at the age of death among 279 nationally-elected leaders in 17 Western countries from 1722 to 2015.

This was compared with the figures for 261 runners-up in the election who never served in that office.

In Britain and other parliamentary democracies, the researchers looked at politicians who served as party leaders at the time of their election to the legislature.

After adjusting for life expectancy at the time of the last election, elected heads of government lived 2.7 years less than non-elected rivals.

"We found that heads of governments had substantially accelerated mortality compared with runner-up candidates," says the study.

"Our findings suggest that elected leaders may indeed age more quickly."