06 March 2006

Prosper and Live Long

They say that Oscar winners live longer than losers. Doesn't seem like winning an Oscar would give much of an evolutionary edge, especially considering the bazillions of actors who don't even get nominated. But that's what the numbers say.

Is this longevity edge evident in other fields as well? I had to check it out, of course.

Here is what the numbers say for winning a Nobel Prize:

There were 235 Americans nominated for the Nobel prize in medicine between 1901 and 1949. Twenty-five won. The average age at death for the winners was 81. Average age at death for the losers was 77.

Now I know what you're thinking. These were old geezers when they got nominated and they probably didn't live long enough to get an award. After all, the average time between being nominated and being awarded a prize was 11 years. So I took off the loser list those who died within 11 years of being nominated. The average age for the losers then came to 79.

For the Nobel Peace Prize, there were 68 American nominees from 1901 to 1951. A dozen won. Those winners died at an average age of 80. The losers died at 76. Removing those who died within 5 years of being nominated (mean interval for peace prize) the average age at death for the losers was 62.

What do these results mean? Is this a statistically valid study? Is this true across all disciplines? I have no idea: I am a genealogist, not a statistician. But for my next project, I will examine the longevity of prize-winning quilters at the Ohio State Fair.

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