Do Oscar Winners Live Longer?


You know how if you are a lady, an Oscar is a curse that means your husband will cheat on you with a tattoo model? Well, there’s an upside (aside from, like, the fact that you won an Oscar): some scientists think Oscar winners live longer. However, not everybody agrees.

Matthew Herper of the Forbes Medicine Show blog writes that the theory originated in a 2001 paper by University of Toronto researcher Donald Redelmeier, whose analysis showed that Oscar-winning actors lived, on average, four years longer than nominees. This Oscar longevity bump has gained credence over the years — it’s even been mentioned during the show’s telecast. But some other scientists think it may be overblown.

Epidemiologist James Hadley thinks Redelmeier’s analysis is tainted by something called the immortal time bias. This sounds like it comes from Doctor Who, but in fact “immortal time” is the period during which, because of the way a study’s constructed, a certain event can’t happen. So if you’re looking at the effect of winning an Oscar on when somebody dies, that person’s whole life before the Oscar is immortal time. Since people win Oscars at all different ages, not accounting for this time period messes up the analysis (if any statisticians or epidemiologists want to explain this better than I just did, more power to you) — and if you do account for immortal time, the Oscar longevity bump becomes statistically insignificant.

Redelmeier acknowledges that for real scientific reliability, we’d need to do a randomized controlled trial wherein we randomly assigned Oscars to various people and measured how long they lived. I think this is a great idea, because then we could also definitively determine whether it is an Oscar that makes you an unlovable bitch whose husband leaves you, or whether that happened because you made too much money.

Does Winning An Oscar Extend Your Life? Scientists Disagree [Forbes]

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