Background: Social status is an important predictor of poor health. Most studies of this issue have focused on the lower echelons of society.
Objective: To determine whether the increase in status from winning an academy award is associated with long-term mortality among actors and actresses.
Design: Retrospective cohort analysis.
Setting: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Participants: All actors and actresses ever nominated for an academy award in a leading or a supporting role were identified (n = 762). For each, another cast member of the same sex who was in the same film and was born in the same era was identified (n = 887).
Measurements: Life expectancy and all-cause mortality rates.
Results: All 1649 performers were analyzed; the median duration of follow-up time from birth was 66 years, and 772 deaths occurred (primarily from ischemic heart disease and malignant disease). Life expectancy was 3.9 years longer for Academy Award winners than for other, less recognized performers (79.7 vs. 75.8 years; P = 0.003). This difference was equal to a 28% relative reduction in death rates (95% CI, 10% to 42%). Adjustment for birth year, sex, and ethnicity yielded similar results, as did adjustments for birth country, possible name change, age at release of first film, and total films in career. Additional wins were associated with a 22% relative reduction in death rates (CI, 5% to 35%), whereas additional films and additional nominations were not associated with a significant reduction in death rates.
Conclusion: The association of high status with increased longevity that prevails in the public also extends to celebrities, contributes to a large survival advantage, and is partially explained by factors related to success.