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Nobel Prize and Lifespan

A study by two economists finds that, winning a Nobel Prize adds almost two years to a person’s lifespan and it is not due to the cash that accompanies the award.//

Professor Andrew Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick, and Matthew Rablen conducted a study on the effect of status on longevity. Usually status and wealth go hand in hand and it becomes difficult to say which has more influence on wellbeing and lifespan.

The researchers chose to compare the lifespan of Nobel prize winners and nominees.

The winners and nominees in physics and chemistry between 1901 and 1950 were chosen for the study, and their biographies analyzed. Only male laureates were studied as the longevity differs between sexes.

528 male scientists with known biographical details (birth and death dates) were listed and four of them who died a premature death due to non-biological reasons were dropped which left the researchers with 524 scientists. Among these 135 had won a Nobel Prize.

The average lifespan of these 524 was found to be a little more than 76 years. The Nobel prize winners were found to live 1.4 years longer than the nominees. When the winners and nominees from the same country were compared, the gap widened further.

Prof Oswald said: "Status seems to work a kind of health-giving magic. Once we do the statistical corrections, walking across that platform in Stockholm apparently adds about two years to a scientist's lifespan. How status does this, we just don't know."

The value of the prize money had changed over the years and so the researchers concluded that amount of actual prize money won by the winners and their longevity were not related. The fame and the status conferred on a scientist somehow acts like a health booster and prolonged his life.

This research was titled "Mortality and Immortality" and published this month.


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