New research says winning a Nobel Prize adds nearly 2 years to your lifespan

Jan 16, 2007
Nobel Medals

New research by the University of Warwick reveals that a Nobel Prize brings more than just cash and kudos - it can also add nearly two years to your life.

The research by Professor Andrew Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick, and Matthew Rablen, (a former Warwick postgraduate researcher now a government economist), is published this month in a study entitled "Mortality and Immortality".

The researchers carried out their study in order to try to answer a long-standing question for economists and medical researchers as to whether social status alone can affect people's well being and lifespan. Although the existence of some kind of effect is known from studies of monkey packs, in humans it has been difficult up till now to separate any perceived positive effect of "status" from the effect of simple greater wealth that status often brings. Nobel Prize winners were viewed as an ideal group to study as the winners could be seen as having their status suddenly dropped on them. They also come with a ready made control group they can be directly measured against - scientists who were nominated for a Nobel prize but did not actually win one.

The researchers looked at winners and nominees in physics and chemistry between 1901 and 1950 (the full list of nominees are kept secret for 50 years). This gave them 528 male scientists with known biographical details (birth and death dates). They looked at one sex only to avoid differences in life span between sexes. They dropped four from that total who died prematurely for non biological reasons - such as active combat in the First World War. That left 524 scientists, of whom 135 actually won a Nobel Prize.

The average life span for this group was just over 76 years. Winners of the Nobel Prize were found to live 1.4 years longer on average (77.2 years) than those who had "merely" been nominated for a prize (who lived on average for 75.8 years). When the survey was restricted to only comparing winners and nominees from the same country, the longevity gap widened even more by around another two thirds of a year on average.

Professor Oswald said: "Status seems to work a kind of health-giving magic. Once we do the statistical corrections, walking across that platform in Stockholm apparently adds about 2 years to a scientist's life-span. How status does this, we just don't know."

The researchers also looked at the Nobel Prize fund - the real value of which has changed over time. By comparing the possible effects of that variation, they found that the amount of actual prize money won by Nobel prize winners had no effect on their longevity - suggesting that it is the sheer status boost of the award that is important in extending lifespan.

The researchers also looked to see if the number of nominations for a Nobel Prize had any effect as a number of the scientists in the survey had been nominated for the award several times. They found that the number had no effect- actually winning the Nobel Prize was what counted.

Source: University of Warwick

Explore further: Experts call for higher exam pass marks to close performance gap between international and UK medical graduates

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nobel winning scientist to boycott top science journals

Dec 10, 2013

(Phys.org) —Randy Schekman winner (with colleagues) of the Nobel Prize this year in the Physiology or Medicine category for his work that involved describing how materials are carried to different parts ...

Stem cell reprogramming made easier

Sep 18, 2013

Weizmann Institute scientists show that removing one protein from adult cells enables them to efficiently turn back the clock to a stem-cell-like state.

The 'woman who understood Newton'

Aug 29, 2013

In this month's edition of Physics World, Paula Findlen from Stanford University profiles Laura Bassi—an emblematic and influential physicist from the 18th century who can be regarded as the first ever w ...

Startups gain appeal as some Japan Inc. names fade

Aug 26, 2013

In a shabby back-alley office in Shibuya, a Tokyo district known for youth culture and tech ventures, defectors from corporate Japan are hard at work for a little known company they fervently believe will ...

Dark Energy Survey set to seek out supernovae

Jul 02, 2013

(Phys.org) —The largest ever search for supernovae – exploding stars up to 10 billion times brighter than the Sun – is beginning this August. For the next five years, the Dark Energy Survey (DES) will ...

Recommended for you

What are the chances that your dad isn't your dad?

Apr 16, 2014

How confident are you that the man you call dad is really your biological father? If you believe some of the most commonly-quoted figures, you could be forgiven for not being very confident at all. But how ...

New technology that is revealing the science of chewing

Apr 15, 2014

CSIRO's 3D mastication modelling, demonstrated for the first time in Melbourne today, is starting to provide researchers with new understanding of how to reduce salt, sugar and fat in food products, as well ...

After skin cancer, removable model replaces real ear

Apr 11, 2014

(HealthDay)—During his 10-year struggle with basal cell carcinoma, Henry Fiorentini emerged minus his right ear, and minus the hearing that goes with it. The good news: Today, the 56-year-old IT programmer ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...