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Social Status: Longer life expectancy for Oscar winners

A study of actors and actresses found that Oscar winners lived, on average, almost four years longer than nominees who went home empty-handed, reports the March issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

Actors aren’t the only people who reap benefits. Dr. Donald Redelmeier of Toronto’s Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre found that Oscar-winning directors live longer than non-winners, and male directors live 4.5 years longer on average than actors.

These findings add to a large body of evidence delineating connections between social status and health and longevity, reports the Harvard Health Letter. Redelmeier theorizes that an Oscar on the mantel moves the winner up the Hollywood pecking order. Winners find it easier to get work, and when they do, they’re better appreciated and better paid.

When it comes to screenwriters, however, this study found that winners died 3.6 years earlier on average than mere nominees. One theory: An Oscar doesn’t anoint the screenwriter with celebrity status, and the opportunities and privileges that go with it. Furthermore, successful screenwriters, because they aren’t in the public eye, don’t have the incentive to stay fit, look good, and watch what they eat the way movie stars do.

The Harvard Health Letter offers some condolence to screenwriters: A follow-up study of medical school class presidents in 2004 also showed that success exacts a price. Despite enjoying prestigious careers, the class presidents died an average of 2.4 years earlier than their med school classmates. Dr. Redelmeier says class presidents are typically go-getters who may take on more responsibilities and, accordingly, more stress that causes them to neglect their own health.

Also in this issue of the Harvard Health Letter

  • Blinded by the night
  • Vitamin D: Enjoying its day in the sun
  • In Brief: ...and I'd like to thank the Academy for a longer life
  • In Brief: Recognizing stroke early
  • New CPR guidelines: Simplicity to the rescue
  • By the way, doctor: Is it a health mistake not to drink?
  • By the way, doctor: How much fish oil should I be taking?

More Harvard Health News »

About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.