A new study suggests that “Super Ager” Joe Biden has a 95% chance of surviving by 2024 and former President Trump has a 90% chance of surviving. Both are “super-agers”: people with a higher-than-average probability of surviving longer than other men their age.
The new paper (PDF), published in the Journal on Active Aging, notes that both 2020 presidential candidates are likely to maintain their health beyond the end of the next presidential term. The study, based on publicly available medical records, suggests that everyone is a “super-ager” — a subset of people who retain their mental and physical functioning and tend to live longer than the average person their age.
As a result, according to the study, chronological age and fitness should not be factors in the 2020 election. “Both candidates have a below-average risk of experiencing significant health or cognitive dysfunction over the next four years,” the authors write.
How to Become a Super-Ager President: A Look at the Medical Records
To assess each candidate’s likelihood of surviving a four-year term, the researchers scientifically assessed the candidates’ health status on a public basis available medical records and verified publicly available personal information.
Three physicians experienced in aging and a team of research scientists with expertise in epidemiology, public health, survival analysis and statistics independently reviewed each candidate’s medical records.
This is the first time that the medical records and personal characteristics of presidential candidates have been scientifically evaluated by doctors and scientists in the field of aging.
Every “super-ager” has it done a higher-than-average probability of surviving a four-year term than other men her age. Biden has a 95.2% chance of surviving the next four years, compared to the 82.2% average for men his age. For Trump, that number is 90.3%, versus the average of 86.2% for men his age.
The super-ager Biden is expected to outlive Trump
The researchers assume that Biden will even outlive Trump despite being three years older. In the paper, the researchers note Biden’s “near-perfect health profile for a man his age.”
This is comparable to Trump’s “significant but modifiable” risk factors.
Researchers find that Trump has an increased family risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. But they expect none of the candidates will have major cognitive function problems now or in the next four years.
Co-author S. Jay Olshansky said the results are evidence that age in this historic choice doesn’t matter. In any event, the next President-elect will be the oldest in American history.
Chronological Age vs. Biological Age
“We see chronological age as a constant topic of discussion during these elections , although scientific and medical evidence tells us that biological age is much more important,” said Olshansky, professor of epidemiology and biostatics at the UIC School of Public Health.
Biological age reflects how quickly a Body ages — this happens at different rates, Olshansky said. “Some people can be biologically old by age 50, while others can be biologically young by age 80.”
In previous research, Olshansky conducted the first scientific assessment of a president’s longevity. He was trying to understand whether being president causes a person to age faster and die earlier than expected. In this study, Olshansky concluded that most US presidents are super-agers and live above average life expectancy.
The first study to assess pre-election candidates
“Despite the science, the candidates themselves and their campaigns are still trying to weaponize age,” Olshansky said. “This is certainly true of both campaigns in 2020. Comments by Biden suggesting Trump is ‘mentally deranged’ and Trump’s references to Biden as ‘Sleepy Joe’ suggest their opponents are too old, unfit or otherwise are unable to do the job based on their age. It’s ageism, plain and simple.”
From Reagan to Buttigieg
In 1984, Ronald Regan, then 73 years old, was asked about his advanced age. “I want you to know that I, too, will not be making age an issue in this campaign,” he said. “I will not exploit my opponent’s youth and inexperience for political ends.”
Similarly, Pete Buttigieg, then 37, deflected the question when asked about his relative youth in 2019 .
“Mayor Buttigieg said it’s the age of the ideas that counts, not the candidate – and I think he was right,” Olshansky said.
“We can recognize age in an election, but all age groups should be valued for the different perspectives and experiences they bring,” he said.
Study: (PDF) “Projected lifespan and healthspan of Joe Biden and Donald Trump before the 2020 election” Authors: S. Jay Olshansky, Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez, Yang Claire Yang, Yi Li, Nir Barzilai, Paola Rode, Bradley WillcoxPublished in: Journal on Active Aging Published date: (early access draft version ) September 25, 2020Photo: Wiki Commons