April 17, 2005
Being A Billionaire Provides Only Small Life Expectancy Boost

Forbes magazine has found that billionaires enjoy only a small advantage in life expectancy over the average American. (same article here)

The average age of death for the 20 billionaires featured in the 2004 and 2005 "In Memoriam" sections of the annual Forbes Billionaires list was 78. We compared this number with the average male life expectancy in the U.S., since all but one of the 20 billionaires on our list that died were males: the billionaires lived 3.5 years longer than average American males. The results would be even more dramatic if we took into account average life expectancies from around the world, since the billionaires on our list are of all different nationalities.

A large part of that difference may not even be due to the ability of the wealth of those billionaires to buy better health care. Writing for Forbes back in June 2004 Dan Seligman pointed out that national health case services have not decreased the gap in life expectancy between upper and lower classes.

But even ten years ago, when this magazine last delved into the topic (FORBES, Jan. 31, 1994), the available answers seemed inadequate. If access was the key, then one would have expected the health gap between upper and lower classes to shrink or disappear with the advent of programs like Britain's National Health Service and America's Medicare and Medicaid, not to mention employer-sponsored health insurance. In fact, the gap widened in both Britain and America as these programs took effect. The 1994 article cited a study of British civil servants--all with equal access to medical care and other social services, and all working in similar physical environments--showing that even within this homogeneous group the higher-status employees were healthier: "Each civil service rank outlived the one immediately below." How could this be?

There are already known substantial differences in life expectancy between the social classes. So even an upper middle class person has a longer life expectancy than average. It is safe to assume that billionaires, like the upper middle class, are a lot smarter than the average person. Seligman points to the research of Linda Gottfredson and Ian Deary which points to average differences in intelligence as an explanation for why the social classes differ in life expectancies.

An explanation not presenting these problems has recently been proposed in several papers by two scholars long associated with IQ studies: Linda Gottfredson, a sociologist based at the University of Delaware, and psychologist Ian Deary of the University of Edinburgh. Their solution to the age-old mystery of health and status is at once utterly original and supremely obvious. The rich live longer, they write, mainly because the rich are smarter. The argument rests on several different propositions, all well documented. The crucial points are that (a) social status correlates strongly and positively with IQ and other measures of intelligence;(b) intelligence correlates strongly with "health literacy," the ability to understand and follow a prescription for disease prevention and treatment; and (c) intelligence is also correlated with forward planning--which means avoidance of health risks (including smoking) as they are identified.

All of Linda Gottfredson's papers on intelligence and health are available on her website. Her paper with Ian Dreary showed that childhood intelligence predicts differences in longevity. (PDF format)

ABSTRACT—Large epidemiological studies of almost an entire population in Scotland have found that intelligence (as measured by an IQ-type test) in childhood predicts substantial differences in adult morbidity and mortality, including deaths from cancers and cardiovascular diseases. These relations remain significant after controlling for socioeconomic variables. One possible, partial explanation of these results is that intelligence enhances individuals’ care of their own health because it represents learning, reasoning, and problem-solving skills useful in preventing chronic disease and accidental injury and in adhering to complex treatment regimens.

That paper also examines the plausible argument the same factors may be causing differences in intelligence and longevity. For example, poor prenatal nutrition would both prevent the brain from developing optimally and also prevent other organs from developing properly. Improperly developed organs would tend to fail sooner and therefore contribute to lower life expectancy. But some of the biochemical environmental factors that hobble fetal development are at least partially a consequence of lower intelligence on the part of pregnant women and their mates. A woman of lower intelligence is less likely to make wise food choices, refrain from smoking and drinking while pregnant, and avoid use of dangerous recreational and addictive drugs.

In her paper Life, Death, and Intelligence Gottfredson points out that many activities that influence life expectancy are very cognitively demanding.

Preventing and managing both chronic disease and accidental injury, the leading causes of death today, is a highly cognitive process. Studies of health literacy, which is learning and reasoning applied to health matters, show that less literate individuals have difficulty understanding and adhering to treatment regimens. Lower adherence predicts higher mortality. Accident prevention models reveal that it requires the same information processing skills that job analyses document as distinctive requirements of high-level, complex jobs: for instance, learning and recalling relevant information, identifying problem situations quickly, and reacting swiftly to unexpected situations. Health providers can reduce excess complexity in their communications and treatment regimens. They can also increase cognitive assistance when tasks are inherently complex, such as in the daily self-management of diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.

In her paper Intelligence: Is It the Epidemiologists’ Elusive “Fundamental Cause” of Social Class Inequalities in Health? Gottfredson argues that much of the difference in health outcomes that correlate with socioeconomic status (SES) may be due to differences of intelligence.

Virtually all indicators of physical health and mental competence favor persons of higher socioeconomic status (SES). Conventional theories in the social sciences assume that the material disadvantages of lower SES are primarily responsible for these inequalities, either directly or by inducing psychosocial harm. These theories cannot explain, however, why the relation between SES and health outcomes (knowledge, behavior, morbidity, and mortality) is not only remarkably general across time, place, disease, and kind of health system but also so finely graded up the entire SES continuum. Epidemiologists have therefore posited, but not yet identified, a more general “fundamental cause” of health inequalities. This article concatenates various bodies of evidence to demonstrate that differences in general intelligence (g) may be that fundamental cause.

There are two implications of these results. One implication is bad news for the lower classes. The other implication is bad news for rich folks.

First off, less bright people in industrialized societies have lower expectancies because they make lousier choices and more incorrect decisions about their health and medical care. This is a hard problem to remedy because many of those decisions are made (or not made) every day. A person doesn't take a beneficial prescription drug that is sitting in their medicine cabinet. Or a person ignores an obvious symptom of disease and fails to see a doctor until it is too late. Or a person smokes cigarettes, eats lots of junk food, or abuses drugs or alcohol. Or a person behaves in ways that increase the chance of accidents. There is an endless variety of ways to shorten your life expectancy. Draconian government involvement in the lives of less intelligent people would be required to prevent many of the life-shortening errors which less intelligent people make.

Even if the government could in theory craft less invasive ways to improve the health of the less intelligent it is hard for public policies to be implemented for this purpose. Why? Because the believers in modern liberalism (whether of the leftist or, in many cases, the neoconservative variety) are loathe to admit that we are not all born into this life with equal potential to learn and achieve. I have no solution to offer on that score except to encourage the funding of development of cheaper DNA sequencing methods. In the decades to come DNA sequencing costs will fall to the point where the genotypes for intelligence will be easily identified and the genetic causes of differences in intelligence will become much harder to deny. Then many of the deniers of the truth will start to come around and admit the obvious. At that point the importance and implications of innate differences in cognitive abilities will return to mainstream discourse after an absence of about a hundred years. My guess is this will happen by 2015 or 2020 at the latest.

The second implication is bad news for billionaires. They can't buy much better medical care. They are super rich. They can buy any medical treatments available. But the same incurable diseases that kill most people in industrialized countries kill billionaires as well. The billionaires not only can't take it with them but they also can't use it to substantially delay their departure into the afterlife. There are limits to their buying power because of the deficiencies in our scientific knowledge about human biology.

The lesson here for the billionaires is that if they want to extend their lives the best use of their own wealth is to fund more research and development aimed at developing better treatments. There are research topics which are poorly funded where the development of Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) could be greatly accelerated by a few tens of millions of dollars. For example, a billionaire could easily fund an effort to shift the mitochondrial DNA genes into the nucleus of some lab mice or rats to then see how much their life expectancies are increased as a result. Another possibility for wealthy philanthropists is to make a big donation to the the Methuselah Mouse Prize to provide greater incentives for scientists to development rejuvenation treatments.

In a similar vein, members of the middle class can individually make better decisions about diet, exercise, and preventive health care. But collectively the middle class can do far more to improve their health in the long run by supporting policy changes by their governments aimed at accelerating the rate of advance of biomedical science and biotechnology. Only advances which produce new methods of curing diseases and reversing aging can produce a large improvement in health and life expectancies.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 April 17 07:33 PM  Aging Studies


Comments
Patrick said at April 17, 2005 8:24 PM:

I'd say there are other mental factors not covered by the IQ measurement that have a big impact here. Self discipline and a low time preference (ie. willingness to make sacrifices today for a payoff in the future) would correlate both with good health and with high net worth.

Other factors would be:
Marriage. It's well known that married men live longer, and I've never heard of a single billionaire, if only because they have so much choice.
Job satisfaction. Except for the rare cases of inherited wealth, I'd say a billionaire is by definition very, very good at what they do. And billionaires don't retire, either. Retirement, with its loss of a sense of self worth, is associated with early death.

michael vassar said at April 18, 2005 7:16 AM:

I am skeptical of any supposed lack of correlation between IQ and self discipline or low time preference. Data?

Matthew Cromer said at April 18, 2005 9:16 AM:

I'm skeptical of any particular large correlation between IQ and self discipline, judging on the high and genius-level IQ people I am familiar with.

rsilvetz said at April 18, 2005 9:41 AM:

Well, as I'm fond of saying, most rich folk don't invest in their most precious resource: their health.

What's worse, they don't plan for it either. I know one billionare that has kidney disease. He is well-aware of the impact of GFR on life expectancy. Is he leading a buyout of OrthoBiotech, makers of BMP-7 and owners of the damnable method patent for kidney disease? Is he doing anything to drive BMP-7 (a cytokine that reverses kidney disease) into the market? No. And No.

My TGF-beta suppressor (which also ameliorates kidney disease) will hit long before BMP-7 does, but I despair of it being in time to save his particular hide.

As to life expectancy, choosing your parents wisely still seems the only variable I give credence to. My 2cents.

toot said at April 18, 2005 9:55 AM:

Intelligence is an important trait, but I think many people pay it too much attention. First off, just what kind of intelligence do you mean? There are people who excel in academic pursuits without being particularly successful in accruing wealth. On the other hand, we tend always to regard someone who does succeed in becoming rich as also being intelligent, although there may not be any test that would allow us to quantify that intelligence prior to his or her business success.

Let me propose an alternative hypothesis that may contribute to (not explain) the observed correlation between wealth and longevity. Within the group of less wealthy people there will be some who have failed to produce successfully and to accrue wealth only because of chronic health problems. These are also likely to have less longevity. Their inclusion in the statistics would have the effect of producing just the kind of correlation that has been observed. Thus, from this point of view, failure to acquire wealth would be an effect of poor health, rather than the other way around.

Randall Parker said at April 18, 2005 10:51 AM:

toot,

While we can't discover an individual's IQ without testing him and that test is not perfectly accurate we could certainly use proxies for intelligence when looking at groups. For example, what is the average educational level of people with $1 million, $10 million, and higher levels of net worth? My guess is at the $10 million and above levels we'd find they have average educational attainments around the bachelor's degree level and perhaps higher.

There is a lot of data on IQ and occupation and also on income and occupation. So for most groups short of wealthy business owners it is easy to see that IQ correlates with higher income.

Yes, the longer you live the more wealth you accrue. But then if someone manages to live long enough to accrue enough money to make it onto the Forbes richest list and still only manages to live a few years longer than the American average that speaks strongly for the idea that having enormous quantities of wealth does not confer a longevity advantage. Well, that is the main point of my post.

Randall Parker said at April 18, 2005 10:52 AM:

rsilvetz,

Your TGF-beta suppressor? Did you discover it in the body or did you synthesis it or screen chemical compounds to find it?

FrancesM said at April 18, 2005 10:54 AM:

Be mindful that the "lower classes" are bombarded by tobacco industry advertising (remember when someone counted how many cigarette billboards were found in a ghetto neighborhood vs. elsewhere?, soda advertising, and @ times tied to poor nutritional choices by governmental policy (i.e. women received aid may have to buy a certain type of food, and be forbidden from healthier choices such as organic peanut butter or 100% natural fruit juices -- children in school lunch programs may receive food of the lowest quality).

So, we shouldn't blame "the victim" this time the lower class for having poorer health.

Garson Poole said at April 18, 2005 12:11 PM:

Randall Parker said, "The lesson here for the billionaires is that if they want to extend their lives the best use of their own wealth is to fund more research and development aimed at developing better treatments."

The best strategy to obtain super-longevity is indirect in my opinion. Instead of investing directly in health research a wealthy individual should invest in the development of robust molecular nanotechnology. An example of a company founded by a multimillionaire that is trying to develop "molecularly precise manufacturing" is Zyvex. The CEO and creator of Zyvex, James R. Von Ehr, first became wealthy through software entrepreneurship. He founded Altsys Corporation and then sold it to Macromedia. Von Ehr was in part inspired by Eric Drexler and the cornucopia of positive developments that he has described.

The roadmap to longevity outlined by Aubrey de Grey is very daunting. I think that we need much better molecular tools to allow rapid progress. Of course, I also support immediate research in longevity but it will be impeded without better tools.

rsilvetz said at April 18, 2005 4:37 PM:

Shouldn't have been so posessive on the pronouns.

On suppressing TGF-beta, my boss invented the technological toolset and I got to go figure out a bunch of targets and methods. Having some kidney issues myself, crushing TGF-beta is an essential component to preventing fibrosis and kidney function deterioration. Since it's my pet project within our cancer company, "my suppressor". It also turns out that there is mounting data that for some cancers, TGF-beta blockade can lead to tumor eradication so...

At the present rate of progress, we should be out in the market in 3 years. Since the patent filing is imminent, I have to keep some of the details back.

If all goes according to plan I might get an announcement from a major medical center for doing trials in kidney disease by year end.

***

Having met the founder of Zyvex just outside of Aspen on vacation, I'm very impressed with the guy and he has a realistic roadmap to making nanotech tools. I had the pleasure of attending his talk that same week and some of the electron photomicrographs he showed drive home that we are really not that far off on the reality of nanotech -- it is within our grasp of the next ten years.

And this upcoming August I will have the pleasure of meeting Aubrey de Grey, and have only a million questions to ask him! But I think SENS is as SENSible as any other way of pursuing longevity. Personally, I think biologic immortality is an achievable goal within 50 years.

jim moore said at April 18, 2005 4:39 PM:

Chronic stress could explain the difference. Chronic stress levels are inversely related to social status. (the poorer you are the more likely you are to experience chronic stress.)
( http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2004-11-29-3 )

Mark Plus said at April 18, 2005 8:39 PM:

There are plenty of super-successful people who clearly aren't that all that bright. The entertainment industry is full of them (one of them happens to be on trial now, while another recently announced she's pregnant), so the ability of a 20-something to build a fortune on the order of $100 million on up doesn't necessarily indicate superior intelligence apart from some kind of savant-syndrome faculty that the market is willing to reward all out of rational proportion.

Randall Parker said at April 18, 2005 9:03 PM:

FrancesM,

One of the arguments made in The Bell Curve is that society needs to be designed more for lower IQ people. But smarties gain advantages from complexity. This takes many forms, for example, complex tax codes. See chapter 22, "A Place For Everyone" for an excellent exposition on this problem.

I think we are going to have a hard time convincing smarties to allow more of society to be designed with the needs of dummies in mind. I've had discussions with smart upper class people of liberal and conservative inclinations and most of them would refuse, for example, to support the reduction in the amount of images and messages in TV shows, movies, and music that encourage impulsive and fun behavior but potentially harmful behavior. Never mind that the less cognitively able are more likely to be seduced into harmful activities that they will be less able to protect themselves from.

The marginal value of organic food is very small. Most of all poor folks, like everyone else, need fruit and vegetables and need to avoid empty calories. The food stamps program is not an obstacle to healthful eating.

Randall Parker said at April 18, 2005 9:13 PM:

Mark Plus,

A pretty small fraction of wealthy people make their money as entertainers or athletes. Yes, not all rich people are smart. But as a group they are obviously smarter than average.

jim moore,

Yes, chronic stress makes telomeres wear down more rapidly and accelerate aging. But one can escape chronic stress with a lot less money than a billion dollars. If being a billionaire greatly reduces stress then the additional stress that most people feel stress does not, on average, decrease life expectancy by that much. Otherwise the billionaires would have more than a few years of added life expectancy.

Keep in mind what is key about this report: Being a billionaire did not increase life expectancy by much. Whatever advantages you can cite for being a billionaire (e.g. less stress, access to better medical care, ability to live in less polluting environments, ability to install one's own home workout gym or to hire a personal trainer) do not add up to very much in terms of increased life expectancy. This is very disappointing because if billionaires did live, say, 10 years longer than the rest of us there'd be things about their life styles that the rest of us would want to find ways to copy more cheaply.

Mark Plus said at April 18, 2005 11:38 PM:

I knew our species had a serious problem soon after the movie "Titanic" came out: Companies running cruise ships had to warn their passengers not to stand on the bows of their ships like Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio. So, yes, a case can be made for applying some prophylaxis to the cultural environment to reduce the incidence of stupid behavioral models.

I suspect this sheeplike programming is pretty irradicable, but it can be harnessed towards constructive ends by making sure that our species has the best possible shepherds. The Straussian Neoconservatives seem to hold a similar view of "the common man" and how to lead him, but their proposed choice of shepherds leave much to be desired. Ironically some Neoconservatives, like Leo Strauss, agree with the Secular Humanists on the nature of religion, but they want to maintain the illusion because they feel that the woo-woo stuff like belief in the "rapture" is useful for keeping the sheep in line, even though they haven't been able to employ Islam to that effect in Iraq.

John Hoffmann said at April 19, 2005 12:32 PM:

***I am skeptical of any supposed lack of correlation between IQ and self discipline or low time preference. Data?
AND)
***I'm skeptical of any particular large correlation between IQ and self discipline, judging on the high and genius-level IQ people I am familiar with.

These are moot points. The theory only predicts averages. If 100% of idiots have at least a few poor health habits simply because they cannot comprehend any health habits beyond brushing teeth and washing their hands, they would not have a higher life expectancy than geniuses - even if you include geniuses with horrible self-discipline. That is because there are some geniuses that do have good self-discipline. And those geniuses push the average higher.

IQ is a necessary requirement, not a sufficient requirement.

michael vassar said at April 19, 2005 8:59 PM:

IQ appears to correlate very strongly to the tendancy to have out of wedlock children or to be incarcerated, both of which demand self discipline far more than cleverness, according to Linda Gottfredson's classic Scientific American article http://www.psych.utoronto.ca/~reingold/courses/intelligence/cache/1198gottfredbox2.html
rsilvetz: You seriously know a billionaire with kidney disease and have suggested to him that he do something like this and he has ignored you or refused? Strange. Did he give you any insight into why? More generally, why do you think that the very rich do so little interesting with their money?

What does everyone think of this?
http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/nation/3142605

Patrick said at April 19, 2005 11:38 PM:

Michael,
In reply to my post you said " I am skeptical of any supposed lack of correlation between IQ and self discipline or low time preference. Data?"

I never said there was a lack of correlation. What I said was that they aren't the same thing.

Back to the subject:

Given that we have identified so many good health factors that should correlate with wealth, the fact that the life span isn't significantly greater indicates either that:
1. There is some countervailing factor we have all missed. or
2. All the positive factors max out relatively early in the income scale, so while $30k/year is defnitely healthier than $5k/year, once above that there is little difference, so the average is only slightly below the extreme.

Patrick said at April 19, 2005 11:41 PM:

Michael,
In reply to my post you said " I am skeptical of any supposed lack of correlation between IQ and self discipline or low time preference. Data?"

I never said there was a lack of correlation. What I said was that they aren't the same thing.

Back to the subject:

Given that we have identified so many good health factors that should correlate with wealth, the fact that the life span isn't significantly greater indicates either that:
1. There is some countervailing factor we have all missed. or
2. All the positive factors max out relatively early in the income scale, so while $30k/year is defnitely healthier than $5k/year, once above that there is little difference, so the average is only slightly below the extreme.

michael vassar said at April 20, 2005 6:29 AM:

I would expect every factor to max out well below the 90th percentile, but for such a small effect as this (3.5 years!) it has to max out below the median. I don't think that median and mean lifespans differ by that little. I'm guessing that the sample is too small or there are counterbalancing factors. Maybe height? Above about 6 feet height may help in potentially lucrative social situations but reduce cardio-vascular health, and the majority of Fortune 500 CEOs are over 6 feet tall. I don't know how well top CEOs resemble to billionaires.

Ken said at April 20, 2005 7:20 AM:

"Be mindful that the "lower classes" are bombarded by tobacco industry advertising (remember when someone counted how many cigarette billboards were found in a ghetto neighborhood vs. elsewhere?, soda advertising, and @ times tied to poor nutritional choices by governmental policy (i.e. women received aid may have to buy a certain type of food, and be forbidden from healthier choices such as organic peanut butter or 100% natural fruit juices -- children in school lunch programs may receive food of the lowest quality).

So, we shouldn't blame "the victim" this time the lower class for having poorer health."

Well, advertisers do that sort of thing for a reason - they have good reason to expect that more people in those areas will be looking to buy tobacco, junk food, and so on, and putting billboards there will pay off in terms of capturing part of a lucrative market for themselves. If they could put billboards anywhere and have people respond to them, don't you think they'd put them where people with lots of money could see them? Or do they just hate poor people and want to kill them, but don't mind it taking several decades?

"I knew our species had a serious problem soon after the movie "Titanic" came out: Companies running cruise ships had to warn their passengers not to stand on the bows of their ships like Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio. So, yes, a case can be made for applying some prophylaxis to the cultural environment to reduce the incidence of stupid behavioral models."

A case can also be made to eschew such prophylaxis and allow natural selection to improve the species.

Ken said at April 20, 2005 4:30 PM:

Is there sufficient data to evaluate the life span of billionaires?

Very few billionaires have ever died. The greatest fortunes have been made in recent years by people still alive. I doubt if there were 5 billionares in 1950.

We do not doubt that the best medical care today is far superior to that of even 30 years ago. And so is information about the benefits of exercise, diet, etc. This makes the ages of billionaires who died a few decades ago irrelevant. And those who have died more recently at advanced ages spent most of their lives in much different conditions from today.

To see if medicine can today help those of great wealth we must wait. For now we know great wealth doesn't much help people born many decades ago.

toot said at April 20, 2005 7:48 PM:

The evidence is of course only anecdotal, but there are some good examples of how having the leisure time and means to engage in risky activities can drastically reduce the life span of the wealthy. Consider the opportunity to attempt an ill-timed flight by John-John Kennedy, and to partake in the new sport of skiing into trees as practiced by another Kennedy and Sonny Bono.

Ken said at April 21, 2005 1:16 PM:

The wealthy and poor tend to have different accidents. e.g. Personal jets crashes seem to unfairly kill mostly wealthy people.

But accidents have to be factored out. I thought the question was "how much will great wealth help you if you use it for extending your life?"

Randall Parker said at April 21, 2005 1:43 PM:

Ken,

Correct, the question is how much can money be used to extend your life. My guess is that the value of money for life extension drops off very rapidly and there is little or no value beyond even $1 million.

Suppose you were just diagnosed with liver cancer. Well, sorry, it is time to check out from the Life Hotel. Doesn't matter what you have to spend.

Suppose you were just diagnosed with Alzheimers. Again, you are on a one way trip toward first losing all your memories and then your life. Whether you can even get better nursing care and maybe live several more months once you have lost all control of your body or knowledge of your identity hardly matters.

A rich guy with Alzheimer's could very quickly fund the production of a vaccine that the FDA wouldn't approve that would help though. The vaccine stops Alzheimer's in many cases but causes brain inflammation in a few percent of sufferers. In the perverse regulatory mindset of the American government (and probably in Europe as well) such a trade-off is resolved in favor of "First do no harm and instead let the disease do far more harm".

For most killer diseases the billionaire is helpless unless he can guess years in advance what is going to kill him and decides to fund development of a cure. But for prostate cancer the disease advances slowly enough in many cases that a billionaire inflicted with it could fund the development of many experimental treatments and have a good chance of trying some of them before dying.

Early diagnosis will increase the incentive for billionaires to fund treatments. If you can know 5 or 10 years in advance that something is going to kill you and you are rich then you have a chance to make a difference in development of treatments in a time frame that could save your life.

Ken said at April 21, 2005 4:56 PM:

reply to Randall's last.

Good thought. Wealth would give you a better chance if you fund the right project (early enough). So in theory the league of extraordinary billionaires should work in concert to allocate research funding across the disease spectrum. This allocation might differ from an allocation planned to help the largest number of people - that would undoubtedly be for public health.

I am sometimes frustrated by articles like this because they shift viewpoint and touch on several questions. Then those who comment can't be too sure what the target of other comments is. My very first remarks were to the effect that we know damn little about how wealth helps the life span of billionaires because so few have actually died.

Randall Parker said at April 21, 2005 5:07 PM:

Ken,

If you place this latest report about billionaires in a larger context I think we can state fairly confidently that billionaires derive little health benefit from their wealth. This report then is very unsurprising.

For example, I came across a report several months ago that claimed people who enroll in cancer drug trials on average live no longer than people who seek conventional treatments. Of course there are occasional exceptions with new drugs that turn out to be beneficial. But most new anti-cancer drugs end up turning out to provide little or no net benefit.

Also, few trials on animals aimed at increasing life expectancy do so. Calorie restriction does. Hardly anything else does.

The problem for the billionaire is that there are no known $20 million dollar treatments that work better than $100,000 or $500,000 treatments. Can you think of any? I can't. Billionaires can't buy what doesn't exist.

Ken said at April 21, 2005 11:16 PM:

Randall.

Well, I have enjoyed the thoughts.

And you are correct: no billionaire can visit Mars next week, the means doesn't exist. We do sense that you won't buy very much time with big money - if the gain was significant it would also be apparent.

arbitraryaardvark said at April 22, 2005 2:18 PM:

I think if there were a way to break down which billionaires are -trying- to live longer, we'd know more. Most current billionaires were raised in a deathist culture and would be somewhat embarrased trying to use their money to live longer. This blog's readers, less so.
I find that most people who die by age 30 aren't billionaires.
My grandfather was not a millionaire when he died, but his widow was, because his estate grew in the stock market over those 25 years.
It might be worthwhile to look at cause of death.
The very rich can afford dangerous toys. The very rich might be more likely to die in a kidnapping attempt. I would there'd be a lot of type-A heart attcks.
It might be that the very rich are a lot less likely to die of certain causes, and more likely to die of certain other causes, and that there's something useful to be learned there.

BERRY JACK said at May 30, 2007 11:08 PM:

GREETINGS!
IT HAS BEEN INTERSTING READING ALL THESE COMMENTS, PEOPLE CONNECT LIVING LONGER WITH THE AMOUNT OF MONEY THEY HAVE, WELL LET ME SHARE THIS WITH YOU, I HAVE KNOWN EXTREMLY WEALTHY PEOPLE WHO HAVE HAD THE BEST OF MEDICAL CARE AND STILL DIED YOUNG, BUT, YET MYSELF WHO HAS NO MEDICAL CARE AND MAJOR HEALTH PROBLEMS IS LIVING LONGER THAN THEY ARE. I HAVE COME TO BELIEVE THAT IT ALL ABOUT ONES ATTUIDE TOWARDS LIFE, LIKE MYSELF WHO HAS A STRONG DESIRE TO SURVIVE, I AM LIVING LONGER THAN MOST OF MY FOMER FRIENDS WHO TOOK LIFES FOR GRANTED. I WOULD GIVE ANYTHING JUST TO HAVE MORE THAN ONE MEAL ADAY, AND TO HAVE MEDICATIONS FOR MY HEALTH PROBLEMS, BUT , THE FACT REMAINS THAT I ONLY LIVE A DREAM WISHING FOR MY SITUATION TO TURN AROUND, BUT I DO KNOW THAT THE MORE I DO SUFFER THE STRONGER MY DESIRE TO LIVE IS AND THAT IS WHY THAT CHANCES ARE I AM GOING TO OUT LIVE ALOT OF WEALTHY PEOPLE.
YOU MUST RESPECT AND UNDERSTAND THE MEANING OF LIFE BEFORE YOU CAN BE EXPECTED TO LIVE IT.

PRASAD L B V said at December 28, 2007 3:40 AM:

Dear Sir,

As we have read that the life expectancy of billionaires is average of 3.5 years more than the average american males - that calls for a lot of time for their devotion to future endeavours.

As regards the IQ is concerned - a billionaire may not be able to reel out the names of all the capital cities in the world -however,he sure is a genius decision maker in his field of endeavour.

But again -as Mr Warren Buffet rightly said..... you do not have to make right decisions all through your life to be successful,but a handful of weighty correct decisions can change your financial future/beautiful life ahead.
There may be many who are capable of good decision making but may not have the resources to invest...but again remember that billionaire (think its Daniel Ludwig) who believed in trading wisely with OPM (other peoples' money) make a fortune...return the money promptly.

Best regards/prasad lbv

Bill said at September 5, 2008 10:49 AM:

I hate to say it but every billionaire should look like this guy in his 80s...

http://www.bobdelmonteque.com

now, barring pre-existing congenital defects, a typical person can be in top form for much of his life if he applies himself. Now, the difference here is the combination of resources and free time that a billionaire has is astounding. The typical American is running around all day just to get the basics done. Where is he going to eat other than a Wendy's take-out window or something similar?

Fintan said at April 3, 2010 10:35 AM:

What is most interesting is that the life expectancy of billionaires is so close to the average. Billionaires are a select set since usually people become wealthier as they grow older, therefore those that die in their 30's through to the 50's are much less likely to have had time to amass their fortune. If we take into consideration that a person who dies in their 40's pulls down the average life expectancy considerably more than, say a 70 year old, then the explaination for billionaires longevity becomes apparent. When we consider that the average 65 year old male has a life expectany of 17 more years, then the billionaires longevity falls 4 years short of the average 65 year old. So despite their tremendous wealth, it seems billionaires achieve no longevity benefit.
I find the comments above regarding IQ, mildly amusing. It seems Americans are obsessed by this statistic, all you need to be a succcess in life is an average IQ,even nobel laureate scientists are usually in the normal intelligence range,for example, Watson and Crick who proposed the Dna double helix molecule had IQ's of 120 and 115 respectively.
Just as great wealth provides no great advantage in longevity, poverty need not be a limiting factor. As an example, my great grandfather lived on a 10 acre holding in Ireland,he died in 1908 at the age of 87.Considering that he lived in a house without indoor plumbing or even a toilet, and lived in an age where medicine was , to say the least, primitive, antibiotics were still 40 years away, demonstrates that innate good health is by far the best guarantee of longevity and wealth is most determinately a back seat passanger.

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