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Why Do National Leaders Seem to Have a Shorter Life Expectancy Than the People They Defeat for Their Country's Highest Office?


"Bottom line, you can tell a lot about people's health by their appearance.."

Leaders from several countries at COP21, November 30, 2015. (Getty Images/Ian Langsdon)

Seventeen men and women are currently vying to be the 45th President of the United States, but according to a new study, whoever wins might have a shorter lifespan than the losers.

The study, which was conducted by the British Journal of Medicine and released this week, found that the heads of state of 17 major countries lived approximately 2.7 years less than their runners-up who never held a high office.

President Barack Obama participates in a group photo with other leaders during the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 15. Joining Obama in the front row are, from left, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Brazil�ian President Dilma Rousseff and Russia�n President Vladimir Putin. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The study also found that the premature death rate among heads of state increased by up to 20 percent. Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Anupam Jena, the study's lead author, labeled the loss as "medically significant."

According to Jena, most world leaders "probably felt national priorities were much more pressing than eating right and exercising," which could contribute to their poor health and advanced aging during their time in office.

By comparing heads of state with their runners-up, Jena said that the effect leading a major country on the world stage has on a person can be more accurately measured. Previous studies have compared heads of state with the overall population of a country, but Jena said that those studies didn't account for the superior level of health care that former presidents receive, citing Bill Clinton's heart surgeon and Jimmy Carter's cancer doctors.

"Bottom line, you can tell a lot about people's health by their appearance," Jena added.

However, there might be one exception to the current findings: newly minted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"Someone like him, who is fit, may be in a better starting position than others," Jena said. "The years could be kinder to him."

The comprehensive study analyzed 279 national leaders in comparison to 261 of their runners-up who never held their country's highest office. Leaders from 17 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Canada, were included in the study.

(H/T: British Journal of Medicine)

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