Winning an election for the highest office in the land can mean the fulfillment of a life's ambitions. But there's a silver living for the also-rans - and for the upcoming presidential race, there will be a lot of them - in these elections: Runners-up tend to live longer.
According to a study published in The BMJ's Christmas edition, leaders elected to run their national governments on average live 2.7 years fewer and had a 23 percent greater risk of death than those who came up short.
This might not be so surprising, given how often American have seen a youthful-looking president elect transformed by age over the course of a presidency. But previous research has shown that the presidency doesn't affect life expectancy, but those studies compared elected leaders with the general population.
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A team of researchers from Harvard Medical School found that elected leaders face "substantially accelerated mortality" after comparing survival rates of 279 nationally elected leaders across 17 countries with 261 unelected candidates. The health risks observed by the researchers aren't just a modern phenomenon, as the team pulled in heads of state dating back all the way to 1722.
If presidents, prime ministers and other heads of state experience increased risk of mortality after being elected to office and serving out their terms, does the same hold true for other politicians? A second study conducted by researchers based in the United Kingdom examined that very question.
For their study, the researchers looked at mortality of 5,000 members of Parliament (MPs) and members of the House of Lords over a 65-period from 1945-2011. MPs had a 28 percent lower mortality risk relative to the general population, while Lords saw an even greater 37 percent lower relative risk.
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The mortality gap widened even further across party lines, with Conservative MPs generally having a lower risk than members of other political parties.
Interestingly, MPs first elected to office at age 60 or older had lower health risks than those who began their political careers at a younger age. Somewhat counter-intuitively, those with more durable political careers tended to live longer lives than MPs who weren't in office for as long.
For the study's authors, explaining the differences between survival rates among legislators versus the general population all comes down to social background. MPs and Lords are more affluent, have better education and other advantages that give them a leg up.
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"Social inequalities are alive and well in UK parliamentarians," the authors write, "and at least in terms of mortality, MPs are likely to have never had it so good."