A recent study has concluded that politicians have a considerable survival advantage over general populations, based on information from 11 countries and more than 57,500 politicians. Research from Oxford University’s Health Economics Research Centre (HERC) has published the most comprehensive analysis so far, based on data from 11 high income countries. The results have been published in the European Journal Of Epidemiology.
The findings reveal that for almost all countries, politicians had similar rates of mortality to the general population in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 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.
There was considerable variation between countries in the extent of this survival advantage. In recent years, for example, while in Italy a typical member of the general public was 2.2 times as likely to die within the next year as a politician of the same age and gender, in New Zealand they were only 1.2 times as likely.
In several countries, the survival advantage of politicians is at its greatest level for the last 150 years, similar to that seen in the middle of the 19th century. 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. Currently, life expectancy gaps range from around three years in Switzerland to seven years in the USA.
The researchers suggest that the recent survival gains for politicians may be due to a variety of factors, including differences in standards of health care and lifestyle factors, such as smoking and diet.
Dr Laurence Roope, Senior Researcher at HERC and a co-author of the study, 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.”
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