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World leaders die younger, says British study

Prominent medical journal BMJ has published research claiming that elected leaders suffer from shortened life expectancy. The study's author held up Canada's active PM Justin Trudeau as a possible counterexample.

Many of those who wish to lead will have to pay a price in lifespan, according to a study released by a leading British medical journal. According to the BMJ, heads of state can expect the stress of the job to cut their life expectancy by nearly three years - a "significant" loss, said Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Anupam Jena, the paper’s lead author.

Jena said that leaders "probably felt national priorities were much more pressing than eating right and exercising," adding an anecdote about former U.S. President Bill Clinton's known weakness for fast food, which Jena put down to "stress eating."

Clinton has had a number of post-presidential health concerns, including bypass surgery in 2004 and another operation in 2005 for a partially collapsed lung. He has since turned to a vegan diet in an effort to combat his heart disease.
"Maybe if there had been world peace, his lifestyle would have been different," Jena quipped.

The comprehensive study analyzed the lives of 279 national leaders in comparison with 261 of their runners-up who never had to serve in the country’s highest office. Doctors looked at data from 17 countries, including the US, Germany, France, Canada and the UK.

Other researchers have published findings that leaders often live longer than their constituents - while noting the superior income and health care access heads of state often enjoy. S. Jay Olshansky, a professor at the University of Illinois, argued that "the stress could accelerate the graying of hair and wrinkling of skin, but that doesn't mean they'll die earlier," according to the Associated Press.

Jena did admit that a leader like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, an active outdoorsman, might fare better than his colleagues.

"Someone like him, who is fit, may be in a better starting position than others," he said. "The years could be kinder to him."

Even US President Barack Obama recently joked with Trudeau that he should already begin dying his hair, since the two leaders' line of work seems to accelerate going gray.

es/gsw (AP, AFP)

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