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Does youthful success mean you won’t live as long?

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A new precocity-longevity hypothesis that those who reach career peaks earlier tend to have shorter lives was tested with 23 samples of eminent persons (N = 1,026), including U.S. presidents, French presidents, Canadian prime ministers, British prime ministers, New Zealand prime ministers, Australian prime ministers, male British monarchs, popes, U.S. Supreme Court justices, U.S. vice presidents, Nova Scotia premiers, Nobel prize winners, Oscar winners for acting, signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and distinguished American psychologists. Support was found in 22 samples. Supplementary analyses showed that the association between precocity and life span is robust and apparently does not result wholly from the artifact of persons with younger sample recruitment ages having shorter life expectancies or from a sample selection artifact described by D. K. Simonton. Explanatory dynamics based on stress and Type A personality are suggested.

Source: “The Precocity-Longevity Hypothesis: Earlier Peaks in Career Achievement Predict Shorter Lives” from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 27, No. 11, 1429-1439 (2001)

It’s even true in pro baseball players:

We tested McCann’s precocity-longevity hypothesis, which proposes that early career achievement is related to premature death, for Major League baseball players (N = 3,760). Age at debut was the definition for precocity. We controlled for possible artifacts of life expectancy selection, the “healthy worker” effect, player position, and body-mass index. Statistically significant Pearson correlations occurred between precocity and longevity, and remained significant when adjusted for artifacts. In a hierarchical multiple regression, every year a baseball player debuted before the average age of 23.6 years was associated with life span being shortened by 0.24 years. The results support the hypothesis that earlier achievement is associated with earlier death.

Source: “Precocity Predicts Shorter Life for Major League Baseball Players: Confirmation of McCann’s Precocity-Longevity Hypothesis” from Death Studies, Volume 31, Number 10, November 2007 , pp. 933-940(8)

The downside of being Type A. Do you know how the term “Type A” was originated? Robert Sapolsky tells the fantastic story and it has a lot to do with chair upholstery. I’m not kidding.

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About Eric Barker