Dying to Win? Olympic Gold Medals and Longevity

This paper compares mortality between Gold and Silver medalists in Olympic Track and Field to study how achievement influences health. Contrary to conventional wisdom, winners die over one year earlier than losers. Data on pre-Olympic performances and each athlete’s career length suggest that selection is unlikely to explain the results. There is suggestive evidence that income may be one mechanism: losers pursued higher-paying occupations than winners after the Olympics according to individual Census records. How people respond to success or failure in pivotal life events may produce long-lasting consequences for health.