Does Stress Cause Aging? Maybe Not

Jay Olshansky PhD recently published a paper in JAMA that argued against the common myth that US president die sooner than the average US citizen because of their significant stress levels. I have been often asked whether stress can kill. Indeed, too much stress can be bad for health. In the case of presidents, we have all seen US presidents age right before our eyes. I recall seeing President Obama, Bush and Clinton all sport new gray hairs after a few years living in the White House.

Dr Olshansky retrospective reviewed the charts of average US citizen death records and compared that to US presidents and found that there was no correlation between become a US president and dying sooner.

Dr Olshansky is quoted in the paper: “This study found no evidence that US presidents die sooner, on average, than other US men. To the contrary, 23 of 34 presidents who died of natural causes lived beyond the average life expectancy for men of the same age when they were inaugurated, even if they hypothetically aged at twice the normal rate while in office” ( .

The reasons for the longevity of US presidents should not surprise anyone: “…Presidents live so long for 2 reasons. Because average age at inauguration is 55.1 years, each president first had to survive the most perilous early years of life. Also, all but 10 presidents were college educated, had considerable wealth, and had access to the best medical care in their era. Level of completed education and its related social and economic status correlates have documented powerful effects on longevity today and probably had even more powerful effects centuries ago”(

This article is further evidence that stress does not cause aging per se and that stress may not be as bad as we think. This article also demonstrates that although wealth is an important contributor to health, more important educational level is more likely to keep you healthy and live longer.


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