Happy Nobel Prize Winners

I stumbled upon an article, Winners Live Longer, that says:

“When 524 nominees for the Nobel Prize were examined and compared to the actual winners from 1901 to 1950, the winners lived longer by 1.4 years. Why? It seems just having won and knowing you are on top gives you a boost of 1.8% to your life expectancy.”

This goes on top of the pile of Bad Conclusions From Statistics. With any kind of awards where people can be nominated several times, winners on average would live longer. The reason is that nominees who die early lose their chance to be nominated again and to win.

I wonder what would happen if we were to compare Fields medal nominees and winners. There is a cut off age of 40 for receiving a Fields medal. If we compare the life span of Fields medal winners and nominees who survived past 40, we might get a better picture of how winning affects life expectancy.

Living a long life increases your chances of getting a Nobel Prize, but doesn’t help you get a Fields medal.

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One Comment

  1. Bingo Crepiscule:

    The Physics prizes were awarded to 54 phenomenally young scientists in the period 1901-1950. I calculated that the average age was 46. The average ages of the prize winners in Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace were significantly higher. I guess if this analysis was performed on the Physics prize winners and nominees only, in the first half of the last century, we may begin to make a better conclusion, albeit with a small data set.