Intriguing Oxford Study: Politicians Live Longer Than Other People

A study conducted by Oxford University shows that politicians live longer than other people. Why do you think this is the case?

According to the results, differences in life expectancy range from around 3 years in Switzerland to 7 years in the US.

First of all, this conclusion was drawn based on data from 11 countries and after studying more than 57,500 politicians, a huge number.

The extensive study was published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

How Was The Oxford Study About Politicians Conducted

The study collected information on politicians from Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. Available data spanned the years 1945 to 2014, however, the full analysis ranged from 1816 to 2017 for France and the UK.

The combined data set included 57,561 politicians, of whom 40,637 died. The proportion of female politicians ranged from 3% (France and USA) to 21% (Germany).

Each politician was matched by country, age, and sex with mortality data from the equivalent section of the national population for that time period. The researchers then compared the annual number of deaths among politicians with the expected number of politicians expected to die based on population mortality rates.

The researchers also calculated the difference in remaining life expectancy at age 45 between politicians and the general population for each consecutive 10-year period.

The Conclusions Of The Study

- For almost all countries, politicians had similar mortality rates to the general population in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

- Throughout the 20th century, differences in mortality rates widened significantly in all countries, so that politicians had an increased survival advantage over the general population.

- There was considerable variation between countries in the extent of this survival advantage. In recent years, for example, while in Italy an average individual was 2.2 times more likely to die in the following year than a politician of the same age and sex, in New Zealand it was only 1.2 times more likely.

- In several countries, the survival advantage of politicians is at its highest level in 150 years, similar to that seen in the mid-19th century.

- The difference in life expectancy at age 45 between politicians and the general population also increased significantly in the second half of the 20th century. Today, differences in life expectancy range from around 3 years in Switzerland to 7 years in the US.

Some might suggest that these differences in life expectancy may be due to politicians typically earning salaries well above the average level of the population (in the UK, the basic annual salary for an MP on 1 April 2022 is £84,144).

Other Factors May Also Be At Play

These results suggest that other factors must also be at play. This is because income inequality (as measured by the share of total income belonging to the richest in society) began to rise in the 1980s, but differences in life expectancy began to widen much earlier, before the 1940s.

Researchers suggest that recent gains for politicians may be due to a variety of factors, including differences in health care and lifestyle standards, such as smoking and diet. The availability of improved therapies for medical conditions more likely to affect politicians (particularly cardiovascular disease) may also play a role.

They note, for example, that both President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill suffered from high blood pressure and eventually died of a stroke. However, since antihypertensive drugs became widely available in the 1960s, the risk of death from circulatory disease has fallen significantly.

It is also possible that the introduction of new campaigning methods (including television and social media) has changed the type of person who became a politician and that this has had an impact on life expectancy trends.

The researchers add that because the study focused on high-income countries, the results may not be generalizable to low- and middle-income countries.

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