General News

Win an Oscar, live longer

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May 22, 2001 | 12:36pm EDT

It certainly pays to be an Academy Award winner-in more ways than one. Sure, there's the adulation and prestige one receives when winning an Oscar, but did you also know it could help you live longer?

According to a study published in Tuesday's Annals of Internal Medicine, Academy Award winners live nearly four years longer than those actors who have been nominated but haven't actually won the gold statuette.

Lead author Dr. Donald Redelmeier, director of clinical epidemiology at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Center in Toronto, who specializes in general Internal Medicine, attributes these additional years of life to the kind of satisfaction a person gets from a deep sense of accomplishment, making them more resilient.

So, according to the study, such actors as Katharine Hepburn and Meryl Streep, who have won a few Academy Awards may live up to six years longer (for their multiple wins). They are respected in their profession, and apparently this makes them stronger.

Redelmeier said Wednesday that the study took more than three years to research and was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health. It encompassed the full extent of the Academy Awards, looking at over 1,600 actors and actresses and factoring in 700 total deaths over a median of 66 years. The average life span of an Oscar winner is 79.7, while those who didn't win lived to an average age of 75.8 years. The average life span of an U.S. citizen is 75 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We found that they [the winning actors] died from the same things we all die from-cancer, heart disease, strokes-but fought them a bit longer or their onset came a bit later," Redelmeier told ABCNews.

But what inspired such an intensive study on Oscar-winning actors?

While watching the 1999 Academy Awards, Redelmeier was struck by how alive the actors looked on stage.

"They [the actors] had so much vitality. They even walked differently. Much more so than any patient I've ever treated," he told Hollywood.com on Wednesday. "The vitality had to be more than skin deep."

And somewhere, somehow, there had to be a reason for this, which needed to be addressed. But it doesn't necessarily mean a new fountain of youth has been discovered and thousands should rush out to take acting classes.

Or does it?

The point of the study, Redelmeier said, is that social factors are important.

"Decades of research has been done on this subject and the overwhelming response is that social standings have a contributing factor on disease itself," Redelmeier said. "[This study] suggests that an internal sense of self-esteem is an important aspect to health and health care."

He also said he believes it shows doctors that they should pay more attention to patients' personal feelings and feelings of accomplishments and failures.

Screen Actors Guild spokesman Greg Krizman agreed that winning an Oscar would certainly give an actor a boost.

"To experience a degree of personal and professional satisfaction probably relates to longer life," he said Wednesday.

Krizman added that the same could apply to a CEO who makes a six-figure sum. Also, he thought numbers were most likely skewed, since such actors as Bob Hope and Milton Berle are well on in years-and they've never won an Oscar.

Daily Variety columnist Army Archerd spoke with a few Academy Award winners about how they felt about the prospect of living longer.

"I recently celebrated my 85th birthday so I'm living proof of it. There may be something to it-but I don't know what," Gregory Peck, who won a Best Actor award, for To Kill a Mockingbird, told Archerd.

"I'm going to go rollerblading this afternoon," Eva Marie Saint, who won a Best Supporting Actress award for On the Waterfront, told Archerd. "If you have an Emmy, does that give you an extra six months?"

"I am delighted to know I have 3.9 more years in which to improve my golf game. But the 3.9 years would still leave me way short of average," Sidney Poitier, who won a Best Actor award for Lilies of the Field, told Archerd.

Looks like there is a whole new spin on the phrase, "I'd like to thank the Academy."

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