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Win An Oscar, Live Longer

An undated photo of actress Katharine Hepburn was released in New York by Sotheby's auction house, March 17, 2004. The picture was among the lots sold on the first day of a two-day sale at Sotheby's.
AP
A Canadian professor of medicine argues that actors who win Academy Awards on Sunday night won't only boost their chances of other box-office hits, but will likely live longer than their fellow nominees.

Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a professor at the University of Toronto, says his research shows that Oscar winners live nearly four years longer than other actors.

And multiple winners, he says, live an average of six years longer. Want proof? Katharine Hepburn, who won a record four acting prizes, lived to the ripe old age of 96.

Redelmeier says the study proves that Oscar success has a powerful influence on a person's health and longevity.

"Once you've got that statuette on your mantel place, it's an uncontested sign of peer approval that nobody can take away from you, so that any subsequent harsh reviews, it leaves you more resilient," Redelmeier said. "It doesn't quite get under your skin. The normal stresses and strains of everyday life do not drag you down."

The study, funded by the Canadian Institute of Health and Ontario Ministry of Health, included all 762 actors and actresses ever nominated for an Academy Award in a leading or supporting role. For each nominee, researchers also identified an actor of the same gender and roughly the same age who appeared in the same film as the nominee.

On average, award winners lived to the age of 79.7, while non-winners lived to be 75.8.

"Once you win, you've got a reputation to live up to, even if you weren't so inclined, you get surrounded by an entourage that's also heavily invested in your reputation," said Redelmeier. "So you end up sleeping properly every night, eating well, exercising regularly every day."

An extra average of 3.9 years of life is significant, says Redelmeier, adding that if all cancer patients in North America were cured, life expectancy would grow by only 3.5 years.

The ongoing study, which was initially published four years ago in the Annals of Internal Medicine, also found that the effect of winning an Academy award is about the same for men and women, comedies and dramas, and leading and supporting role winners.

The only Oscar winners that don't get the benefit of longevity are screenwriters. In fact, the reverse is true. The tortured souls live on average 3.6 years fewer than those who don't win.

"We find a survival gain for the actors, the directors but we find a survival loss for the writers," said Redelmeier, who suggests that writers aren't coddled and are prone to bad habits, such as smoking and drinking. "Writers 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."

Redelmeier said he was inspired to study the movie industry after watching the Oscars on television. He noticed the people on stage looked nothing like his patients.

"It's not just the wardrobe and the plastic surgery and makeup, it's the way they walk and speak, they seem so much more vivacious, much more than just skin deep," he said. "So I thought, this is really an amazing way to look at social gradations at the upper echelons of society."