“Live fast, die young” may now enter scientific jargon.

People that achieve career success earlier in life by in large die earlier as well. All is according to new research from the University College of Cape Breton in Canada.

The findings support a long-held theory that Dr. Stewart McCann, who conducted the research and first proposed the idea, calls “precocity-longevity hypothesis.” That is to say, precocity and decreased life span may be congenitally linked.

McCann first noticed this pattern in 2001 when he by chance realized that America’s youngest presidents routinely met an earlier grave. Seeking to support this observation, McCann first looked at presidents and prime ministers from various countries. This includes, among others, those from the US, France and New Zealand, all of whom died of natural causes.

His earliest results uniformly proved his theory. Younger American presidents, those inaugurated before the median age of 55.7, died an average of 7.2 years earlier than those elected after the median. The youngest French prime ministers likewise died an average of 9.2 years earlier than those beyond the median.

In his second study, McCann extended his research to include winners of Nobel Prizes and Academy Awards. Nobel Prize and Oscar winners observed came from various award categories. Again, those before the median mark died 13.5 before those past it.

In his third and most recent, McCann looked at all signers of the US Declaration of Independence. Those below the median age of 44.8 died an average of 7.7 years earlier than those beyond it. By isolating people at a specific epoch in time, McCann sought to rid an extraneous element at play – the fact that life spans vary significantly over time.
As McCann’s three tests have yielded equivalent results, his precocity-longevity hypothesis may now be taken seriously as veritable scientific theory.

In trying to pinpoint the root of this issue, McCann presents two inferential guesses. In the first, the wearing effects of stress take years off early-achievers. “It is conceivable that stresses resulting from serving in a high-level capacity at an early age may promote premature declines that culminate in earlier death.”

In the second, McCann writes that “Type A” personalities, those displaying ambitious, hyper-organized and status-driven characteristics, may incentivize putting personal well being on the back burner. Case in point, the diets, exercise routines and emotional well being on which longevity is contingent are fatally overlooked in favor of immediate career success. Such personalities could, furthermore, entail risky behaviors that lead to untimely demises.

So, try not to envy those getting on their feet a little more quickly than you. They may also be the ones that beat you to the grave.


Thomas Freeman is Texas-transplant and aspiring journalist trying (but often failing) to navigate New York City. A current NYU student, Thomas also writes articles and manages media content for 20to30.

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