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Why politicians live average of 4.5 years longer than members of public they represent, study finds

A new study shows politicians have a considerable survival advantage over the members of the public they represent in Parliament.

A new study shows politicians have a considerable survival advantage over the members of the public they represent in Parliament.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have looked at health data from 11 countries and over 57,500 politicians going back to the early 19th century.

Across the 11 countries, politicians currently have an average life expectancy that is 4.5 years longer than members of the populations they represent.

Life expectancy gaps differ by country, ranging from around three years in Switzerland to a hefty 7.5 years in Italy.

Results may be due to politicians typically earning salaries well above the average population level, which can affect access to healthcare.

As an example, in the United Kingdom (UK), the basic annual salary for a Members of Parliament (MP) from April 1, 2022 is £84,144. This compares to an estimated mean UK salary of £24,600.

The experts also suggest that modern campaigning methods, such as TV and social media have recently changed the type of person who becomes a politician, and this may have had an impact on observed trends in life expectancy gaps.

The study authors say politicians are ‘an elite group’ that currently has a ‘very high’ survival advantage compared with the rest of the population.

“Our study is the largest to date to compare the mortality rate and life expectancy of politicians with those of the age and the gender-matched general population,” said Dr Laurence Roope at the University of Oxford’s Health Economics Research Centre.

“The results show that the survival advantage of politicians today is very high compared to that observed in the first half of the 20th century.”

According to the researchers, there’s been much interest in whether certain “elite”, high-status occupations, such as politics, are associated with better health.

Until now, studies that have compared mortality rates between politicians and the populations they represent have typically focused on one or a few countries.

For the new study, Roope and colleagues gathered information on politicians from 11 developed countries – Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

The combined dataset included 57,561 politicians, of which 40,637 had died.

Researchers were able to analyse data for all 11 countries for at least 69 years – spanning the period between 1945 and 2014.