MSFHR-supported study asks if winners live longer

20 March 2013

The spoils of victory do not necessarily include better health and a longer life, according to a new study co-authored by MSFHR Scholar Richard Carpiano.

In an article published recently in the American Sociological Review, Carpiano and colleagues examined the longevity of individuals who win one of three high-profile recognitions – an Emmy Award, Baseball Hall of Fame induction, or a U.S. presidential election – to see if gains in status are associated with better health and increased life expectancy. Despite evidence linking socioeconomic status to lower mortality, the researchers found no consistent survival advantage for the winners of these awards compared to nominated losers of the same competitions.

The theory of “relative deprivation” contends that there are incremental benefits to health and mortality associated with ascending grades of status. Likewise, those lacking status are thought to experience greater stress, which imposes physiological effects on the body and serves as a driver of unhealthy behaviours.

Although the study found Emmy Award winners live an average of 2.7 years longer than unsuccessful nominees, no survival benefit was observed for Baseball Hall of Fame inductees or presidential election winners. Presidents in fact lived 5.3 fewer years on average than unsuccessful candidates.

The findings suggest that status-related health inequalities are more likely to be influenced by life circumstances and opportunities arising from winning or losing than by relative deprivation.