Study finds Oscar winners live longer, Heath Ledger begs to differ

Senior Editor
09.02.10 37 Comments

The NY Times a few days ago ran a profile on Dr. Donald A. Redelmeier, who’s some kind of doctor of quirky statistics.  One of his findings, which will be published in a peer-reviewed journal later this month, is that Academy Award winners live longer than the runners up.  Which is interesting, because I always assumed that when Quentin Tarantino inevitably suffers an early demise, it will be due to the dual stresses of cocaine and fist-pumping, not because he got totally hosed out of his screenplay Oscar for Inglourious Basterds.

Dr. Redelmeier’s work on longevity began 10 years ago, when he was watching the Academy Awards and noticed that the celebrities on stage “don’t look anything like the patients I see in clinic,” he said. “It’s not just the makeup and the plastic surgery and wardrobe. It’s the way they move, it’s their gestures. They seem so much more vivacious. It seemed so much more than skin deep and might go all the way to longevity.”

His findings: Academy Award winners live an average of three years longer than the runners-up. A potential explanation could be an added measure of scrutiny, a public expectation of healthier living.

Naturally, this led me to a simple conclusion: Meryl Streep is immortal.

There can be only one

Some of his other findings:

  • A 41 percent relative increase in fatalities on Super Bowl Sunday, which he attributed to a combination of fatigue, distraction and alcohol.
  • Medical school class presidents died an average 2.5 years earlier than those in the control group. The type who would run for class president, he concluded in the resulting paper, “may also be the type who fails to look after their health or is otherwise prone to early mortality.”
  • He found that about 25 more people die in crashes on presidential Election Days in the United States than the norm, which he attributes to increased traffic, rushed drivers and unfamiliar routes.
  • Dr. Redelmeier was the first to study cellphones and automobile crashes. A paper he published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1997 concluded that talking on a cellphone while driving was as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.
  • Medical School candidates who interviewed on foul-weather days received ratings lower than candidates who visited on sunny days. In many cases, the difference was significant enough to influence acceptance.

I’ve already reached out to Dr. Redelmeier to see if he’ll review my study on the shockingly high correlation between those who smelt it and those that were found to have dealt it.

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