Most US presidents live beyond average life expectancy

December 6, 2011, University of Illinois at Chicago

Contrary to claims that U.S. presidents age at twice the normal rate, a new study finds that most U.S. presidents live longer than expected for men of their same age and era.

The research letter, by noted University of Illinois at Chicago demographer S. Jay Olshansky, is published in the Dec. 7 issue of JAMA, the .

Olshansky became interested in the subject when, in the summer of 2011, President Obama celebrated his 50th birthday and a flurry of news reports focused on his graying hair, pronounced wrinkles, and rapidly aging appearance.

"In the world of biology we know that you can't actually measure the aging of an individual," says Olshansky, professor of at the UIC School of Public Health. "There isn't any single test to actually measure how long you've aged from point A to point B, nor is it possible to predict specifically how long an individual will live."

Using the assumption that presidents age at twice the normal rate, Olshansky calculated how long U.S. presidents would have been expected to live based on their age and the year they were inaugurated -- and compared it to how long they actually lived.

Aging at twice the normal rate was estimated by removing two days of life for every day in office (for example, a 4-year term led to a reduction in estimated remaining lifespan of 8 years).

Olshansky found that 23 of the 34 U.S. presidents who died from natural causes lived longer, and in many instances significantly longer, than predicted. Their average age at was 55.1 years.

Four presidents who were assassinated were removed from the analysis.

suggests that the of U.S. presidents is shortened due to the stresses of the office, but the of the first eight presidents was 79.8 years -- during a time when at birth for men was less than 40.

"This is about how long females born in the U.S. today live," Olshansky said.

The study also found that living ex-presidents have either already exceeded their predicted longevity at the time of their inauguration, or are likely to do so.

"We know that socioeconomic status has an extremely powerful effect on longevity now," Olshansky said, "and it was likely to have been a factor in the past." All but 10 U.S. were college educated; all were wealthy; and all had access to health care.

"We don't die from gray hair and wrinkled skin," said Olshansky. "What we're seeing in President Obama is really not inconsistent with what we see for any other man his age in the U.S. or elsewhere."

More information: JAMA. 2011;306[21]:2325-2326.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

6 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gwrede
1 / 5 (1) Dec 06, 2011
Heck, if I were President after Bush, Jr., I'd have grey hair from the start.

But more seriously, recent studies (even on this site, but I apologize, I don't have the links) have identified Nobel Prize Winners and Oscar Winners as also significantly outliving their peers.

Could it be that merely getting respect from the people around you could make such a difference?
Callippo
not rated yet Dec 06, 2011
Mr. Obama may be going grey, but the rest of the country is going bald pulling their hair..

http://www.thesta...ama-grey
Nanobanano
5 / 5 (2) Dec 06, 2011
Could it be that merely getting respect from the people around you could make such a difference?


Nobel and Oscar winners tend to be wealthy by then or afterwards, and often become ambasadors.

Heads of state and ambasadors get free meals prepared by dieticians, and get free life time medical care.

Of course they live longer.
snapple232
not rated yet Dec 06, 2011
Was a study really necessary for this? Average life expectancy records are freely available, as are the ages of each U.S. President, of which there have only been 44. Anybody could have compared the two sets of data and come to that conclusion.
Guy_Underbridge
not rated yet Dec 07, 2011
Amazing what free healthcare will do for you....
gwrede
not rated yet Dec 07, 2011
Could it be that merely getting respect from the people around you could make such a difference?


Nobel and Oscar winners tend to be wealthy by then or afterwards, and often become ambasadors.

Heads of state and ambasadors get free meals prepared by dieticians, and get free life time medical care.

Of course they live longer.

Actually, the studies I read were very explicit about adjusting for factors such as wealth, because they were trying to find out if winning the prize itself made the difference.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.