Thursday, March 31, 2005

Longevity of U.S. Presidents

Longevity of U.S. Presidents. Survey of how long the presidents lived and what health problems they suffered from. This is dated but interesting.

From the site:

The first half (16 individuals) of the death-by-natural-causes group died between 1799 and 1875. The median age at death was 73.5 years.

The second half of this group died between 1885 and 1994. The median age of death was 65.5 years (!)

The figures don't speak very loudly to modern medicine as a prolonger of life, at least for famous old white men, but I think we have to give medicine its due in certain individual cases. Washington died at 67 of quinsy, and I think just about everybody would agree that such deaths are very uncommon in modern times. Three other presidents clearly died before their time: Harrison of pneumonia, Taylor of a "typhoid-like fever," and Polk of cholera. Again, I think most people would agree that these untimely deaths would probably not have occurred in modern times (odd cases like Jim Henson's group B strep sepsis notwithstanding). Possibly ENT surgery could have saved Grant, as it apparently did Cleveland, and colorectal surgey saved Hoover and Reagan. The medicine of the fifties possibly kept Eisenhower's Crohn's disease sufficiently at bay, whereas a similarly afflicted counterpart of the nineteenth century may not have remained hale enough to rise to such high position, likewise for Kennedy and his Addison's disease.

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