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Longevity of Nobel winners

A new research paper ‘Mortality and Immortality’ from Mathew Rablen and Andrew Oswald, finds that Nobel Prize winners go on to have longer lives than scientists who are merely nominated. They considered a sample of 524 of the world's top scientists from the first half of the 20th century that were nominated at least once for the Nobel Prizes in either Physics or Chemistry. They matched nominees born in approximately the same year and country. For the USA, Nobel Prize winners live 2.08 years longer than matched American nominees. For Germany, the figure is an extra 1.30 years of life. For Europeans, it is 0.69 years.

Tests amongst the winners reveal no relationship between the real value of the Prize and longevity. Status, rather than money, appears to be responsible for the effect. The authors state that considering that this study was based on an extraordinarily successful population of scientists, the size of the social status effect could be expected to be larger in a more normal population of people.

In fact there have been more extensive studies which confirm this including the ‘Whitehall studies’ of 18,403 male civil servants in England covered by writings of Sir Michael Marmot http://www.findem.com.au/resources/displayResourcesArticle.php?id=30. Marmot’s book ‘Status Syndrome’ reveals that it is the sense of control and autonomy and reduced stress which comes with status which improves health and longevity rather than money and fame. These effects are also evident in pensioner mortality and workforce demographics developed by actuaries for pension fund valuations. You can locate the Rablen and Oswald paper at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/faculty/oswald/nobelsrablenos07.pdf

Posted Sunday, 28 January 2007


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