Do Politicians Live Longer?  

Ageing Population to More than Double by Middle Century

Who has the longest survival potential? Have you ever thought that politicians have the highest life expectancy? A new study by researchers at OxfordPopulation Health revealed that politicians have a considerable survival advantage over general populations.

The researchers came to the conclusion after analysing over 57,500 politicians from 11 countries. The researchers noted that the survival advantage and in some countries is at the highest level for 150 years, and life expectancy at age 45 to be around seven years higher for politicians compared to general populations The results have been published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.


The study collated information on politicians from Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA. They collected data between 1945 and 2014. The dataset included 57,561 politicians, of which 40,637 had died. The proportion of female politicians ranged from three per cent (France and the USA) to 21 per cent (Germany). Each politician was matched according to their country, age and gender to the mortality data from the equivalent section of the national population for that period of time. The researchers then compared the number of deaths among the politicians each year with the number expected based on population mortality rates.

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


The study noted that politicians had similar rates of mortality to the general population in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for almost all countries. The difference in life expectancy at age 45 between politicians and the general population also increased significantly during the second half of the 20th century. The researchers pointed out that at present life expectancy gaps range from around 3 years in Switzerland to 7 years in the USA. Throughout the 20th century, differences in mortality rates widened significantly across all countries, so that politicians had an increasing survival advantage over the general population. Noting that some may say that these differences in life expectancy may be due to politicians typically earning salaries well above the average population level, the researchers said that it was not simply that. However, the researchers suggest that other factors such as differences in standards of health care and lifestyle factors such as smoking and diet also was a major cause. The availability of improved therapies for medical conditions more likely to affect politicians (particularly cardiovascular diseases) may also play a role. It is also possible that the introduction of new campaigning methods (including television broadcasting and social media) changed the type of person who became a politician, and that this had an impact on life expectancy trends.

Senior Researcher in Oxford Population Health and a co-author of the study Dr Laurence Roope said: ‘Our study is the largest to date to compare the mortality rate and life expectancy of politicians with those of the age and gender-matched general population. The results show that the survival advantage of politicians today is very high compared to that observed in the first half of the 20th century. It is interesting that the mortality gaps we document typically started rising half a century earlier than the well documented increases in income inequality from the 1980s.”

Professor of Health Economics at Oxford Population Health and lead author Philip Clarke said; ‘Reducing health inequalities is high on the agenda of the UK Government and many other Governments. A key challenge will be to find ways to raise the life expectancy of the public to close gaps with elite groups such as politicians.”


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