Life and death may be at stake at the Oscars. And we’re not talking about who might survive in Gravity or American Hustle. The real actors who win the Academy Awards live almost four years longer than the nominees who walk away empty handed.
Researchers in 2001 set out to determine whether the social status of those who win one of the most recognized prizes in the world affects survival rates compared to their less recognized peers.
“We found that winning an Academy Award was associated with a large gain in life expectancy for actors and actresses,” according to Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a professor at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “The absolute difference in life expectancy is about equal to the societal consequence of curing all cancers in all people for all time.”
That may be a bit of a stretch considering that he’s comparing cancer to the grown-up, highly televised equivalent of winning an elementary school science fair prize. But nonetheless, the statistics support the result.
Researchers studied 1649 actors and actresses including 762 nominated for Academy Award in a leading or supporting role prior to 2000 as well as actors of the same gender and approximately the same age who appeared in the film with the nominee. The Oscar winners studied lived to the age of 79.7, while mere nominees and non-winners lived to just 75.8.
One explanation for the difference is the societal pressure of the winners and advantages received with the award. The Oscar winners “often need to preserve their image by continually avoiding disgraceful behaviors and maintaining exemplary conduct,” said Redelmeier. “They have personal chefs, trainers, nannies, or other staff that make it easy to follow the ideals of lifestyle.”
However, the Academy Award is not the Holy Grail for everyone as actors seem to fare better than writers. In a nod to the societal pressure theory, the winning screenwriters — who often go unnoticed and sometimes are not even televised on the Oscar broadcast — live 3.6 years fewer than nominees. Redelmeier told the Associated Press that screenwriters just “do not lead such exemplary lives. They don’t have to eat properly, sleep properly or exercise at all so, as a consequence of that they don’t receive any of the monitoring that other notable individuals do.”
So to all of the kids watching the awards and dreaming of a career in Hollywood, it’s best to be in front of the camera and be sure to walk away with an Oscar.