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Being a President or a World Leader can shorten lifespan, Study Says

Update Date: Dec 15, 2015 12:31 PM EST

Leading a country can take a toll on one's lifespan.

According to a new study, presidents and other elected leaders throughout the world tend to have shorter lifespans than runner-ups do. They found that elected leaders from 17 countries had a 23 percent increased risk of premature death when compared to the risk calculated in the runner-ups who was never elected to the highest office in their country. These presidents and prime ministers also lived 2.7 fewer years than the runner-ups did.

For the United States, the team reported that presidents lived an average of 12 years after their last election. For runner-ups, their average was much higher at 19 years. The researchers noted that in the U.S., the candidates who won tended to be older than the runner-ups. When they accounted for that age difference, they found that presidents still lived 5.7 fewer years on average after their last election than the runner-ups did.

"The increase in mortality among those leading a nation, relative to others in politics, may stem from the greater responsibility and stress of the job," senior study author Anupam Jena of Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said reported by FOX News. "The decisions are more impactful, the spotlight is greater, and I suspect the job is even more strenuous."

Jena added, "Certain hormones like cortisol may be elevated, which in turn accelerate diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Reducing stress would arguably slow the acceleration of aging but may not fully reverse it."

Critics noted that the researchers did not factor in variables such as risk of death due to unnatural reasons and preexisting health conditions.

"The authors failed to eliminate causes of death that were unrelated to aging, such as being at the wrong end of a gun," expert S. Jay Olshansky said reported by USA Today. Olshansky, who is a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was not involved with the study.

The researchers had analyzed data on 279 world leaders and 261 runner-ups from 1722 to 2015. The countries that they focused on were Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

The study's findings were published in the British Medical Journal.

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