Nav: Home

When considering presidential candidates, age is just a number

July 26, 2019

With more people living longer and healthier lives than ever before, a new white paper published by the American Federation for Aging Research shows there is no such thing as being too old to be president.

Author S. Jay Olshansky, professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, estimated the longevity and survival probabilities of candidates seeking the White House. He found that age is not a relevant factor in judging the fitness of presidential candidates to hold the nation's highest office.

"Age is just a number," said Olshansky, who is also a board member of the American Federation for Aging Research, or AFAR. "This research for the first time provides science-based calculations that show that the age of a candidate should not be considered at all."

Olshansky and his colleagues used data from national vital statistics to estimate lifespan, healthspan (years of healthy living), disabled lifespan, and four- and eight-year survival probabilities for U.S. citizens with attributes matching those of all 27 current candidates for the next two election cycles.

The study's estimates, which Olshansky says are intentionally conservative, suggest that nearly all of the candidates meet the criteria to live in health, and without disability, not only through a first term but also through a second term.

"Nevertheless, the estimates provided here, favorable or unfavorable, should not be interpreted as destiny for any of the candidates," Olshansky wrote.

Four of the leading contenders in both parties are in their 70s: U.S. senators Joe Biden (76), Bernie Sanders (77) and Elizabeth Warren (70) on the Democratic side, and Republican incumbent Donald Trump (73), who became the oldest American elected president at age 70 in 2016. Overall, seven of the 27 candidates currently in the race for president would be aged 70 and older on inauguration day in January 2021, increasing the odds that the oldest person ever elected president could be sworn into office that day.

This fact has given rise to considerable discussion and media attention regarding the role age plays in deciding whether a candidate is fit to be president. Almost four in 10 people surveyed in a June 2019 Economist/YouGov Poll said they considered anyone in their 70s "too old to be president."

The scientific answer, according to the study, is that "chronological age itself should not be used as a sole disqualifier to run for or become president."

AFAR Executive Director Stephanie Lederman said the number of candidates in their 70s is in part a result of "the revolution in healthy aging that has occurred over the past century. Life expectancy has increased by an astounding 30 years. More of us are living healthier and longer than ever before. And biomedical research continues to open new paths for all of us to extend not only how long we live, but how many of those years we live independently, in good health, and contributing in significant ways to society."

The study also took note of a suggestion by Dr. David Scheiner, former President Obama's personal physician, calling on presidential candidates to make their medical records public.

"The voting public and legal scholars need to weigh in on whether or not medical records should be required to be disclosed by candidates or a sitting president," Olshansky said.

Lederman said, "The question, Dr. Olshansky's study reminds us, shouldn't be, 'How old is too old?' It should be, 'How healthy is the candidate, regardless of their age?'"
-end-


University of Illinois at Chicago

Related Science Articles:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.
PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: IRL Online
Original broadcast date: March 20, 2020. Our online lives are now entirely interwoven with our real lives. But the laws that govern real life don't apply online. This hour, TED speakers explore rules to navigate this vast virtual space.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Falling
There are so many ways to fall–in love, asleep, even flat on your face. This hour, Radiolab dives into stories of great falls.  We jump into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, upend some myths about falling cats, and plunge into our favorite songs about falling. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.