Though it’s been a while since our last pointless study, here’s one that is indubitably of more value. It’s taken from Ronald Munson’s Intervention and Reflection: Basic Issues in Medical Ethics.
Canadian epidemiologist Donald Redelmeier was watching the Academy Awards when he noticed the vitality of the nominees.
The people up on the stage didn’t look anything like the patients I see at the hospital.
Based on his incredibly astute observation, he decided to do a study to see if being nominated for an Academy Award, or winning the award, would effect one’s lifespan. What he found was absolutely astounding and capable of changing the world view of anyone familiar with his results.
Actors never nominated for an award lived, on average, 75.8 years. Those nominated for an award lived 76.1 years, while Oscar winners lived a mind-blowing 79.7 years. Redelmeier was shocked, and he posited that the reason for such an increase was the prestige associated with the award.
I have another theory for the increase in lifespan: a reversal of the cause and effect he supposed. Instead of winning an Oscar causing an actor to live longer, perhaps those who ended up living longer were those doing things which were necessary to win an award. These might include: eating well, exercising, having a sense of humor, and having a personality capable of overcoming adversity. A fat, ugly actor is less likely to win an award and is more likely to die earlier. Of course, there’s also the fact that those who win Academy Awards are usually higher-paid and exposed to little or no stress in life.
In dealing with such a specific population, the minuscule difference in lifespan between those nominated and those not is completely negligible. In fact, the entire study is utterly preposterous. While some actors may imagine that their lives are meaningless until culminating in the coveted Oscar, I find it difficult to believe that the “stress” of making millions of dollars and not winning an award could shave nearly four years off of one’s life.