Of the 34 who died of natural causes (all except Kennedy, McKinley, Lincoln and Garfield), 23 lived longer than the average man would have, based on their ages at inauguration. They would have lived longer than the average for other men of their era even if they'd somehow aged at twice the normal rate while serving as president.
Commenting on the report, Dr. James Goodwin, director of the Sealy Center on Aging at the University of Texas Medical Branch, said the idea that presidents will be adversely affected by stress is "fundamentally flawed." Research in animals and some in people suggests that the most dangerous type of stress comes with helplessness, such as "when you're a middle manager and can't change the system," he explained.
"When you're more in charge, it isn't a bad stress," he said.
Goodwin added that presidents aren't like other people. "You're selecting for people with tremendous life force, incredibly energetic, emotionally active and positive people," he said. "They're politicians."
One idea for future research would be to study the losers of presidential elections, who would share many traits with the winners but never actually ended up in the White House, he said.
The research is published in the Dec. 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
For more about aging and senior health, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: S. Jay Olshansky, Ph.D., professor, public health, University of Illinois at Chicago; James Goodwin, M.D., director, Sealy Center on Aging, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas; Dec. 7, 2011, Journal of the American Medical Association
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