This Sunday, a handful of stars will go home empty handed from the 2014 Academy Awards show. Not only will they be left with the bitter sting of defeat, but such loss may also lead to shorter lifespans than the winners.
Seriously. Social status has long been recognized as a predictor for poor health. Typically, research has focused on disparities between the rich and the poor. But science tells us that the effect may extend to quite literally the top of social ladder. In fact, Oscar winners may also have the perk of longevity.
The finding was first noticed in 2001. Researchers from the University of Toronto studied 1,649 Oscar-nominated actors and actresses. When they accounted for factors that could influence death rates, they found that among the participants, Oscar winners had a survival advantage of about four extra years of life, and actors who won multiple Oscars had an advantage of six years. Nominees who didn't win had the same survival rates as their non-nominated peers.
Success could possibly account for the survival advantage, the researchers say. They speculate that since stars are subjected to intense personal scrutiny, they pay special attention to their looks and behaviors. Consequently, they may avoid risky behavior and focus more intensively on eating and exercise. Not to mention, many have the means to hire nannies, trainers, and managers, which could mean they are under less stress than the general population.
Of course, there are the exceptions, like Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman who died recently after an overdose. Another study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine questioned the methods of the 2001 study. The original study was criticized for counting the years an actor was alive, instead of comparing years after a win. They also declared winners and losers at the onset, and didn't factor in whether actors in the study won an award later on. When the new researchers re-calculated, they didn't find the numbers significant.
If the findings do hold true, it could mean that there are other factors that impact survival, like a jump in social status. Looks like we will have to wait and see.