Lion of the Blogosphere

Life expectancy by occupation

This should be an interesting topic for study, but surprisingly, searching the internet revealed practically no useful studies in this area, except studies showing that higher-status occupations have higher life expectancy than lower-status occupations, but that’s just another way of stating that people with more education have higher life expectancy than people with less education, and people with higher incomes have higher life expectancy than people with lower incomes. This doesn’t necessarily say what’s driving the higher life expectancy.

I came across this article at the European Working Conditions Observatory, and finally found some intriguing information from a mortality rate study from Switzerland (which is not exactly the same thing as life expectancy).

You would think that medical doctors should have the lowest mortality rate, because they would know better than anyone how to self-diagnose their problems and obtain the best medical care. But that’s actually not the case. Three professions had lower mortality rates than medical doctors:

Clergy/Religious professionals: 59.8
Accountants: 61.6
Teaching, education: 62.5
Medical doctors: 63.2
Machine operators, auxiliary technical occupations: 74.8
Architects, engineers: 75.7
Construction and building construction labourers: 148.3
Occupations in forestry: 148.6

So if you want a long life, don’t become a lumberjack! Get a desk job. And if you are religious, then you should become a member of the clergy. (Unless you believe that the only true religion is Catholicism, because priests aren’t allowed to marry, and other studies show that marriage increases life expectancy, so Catholic priests probably have lower life expectancy than other clergy and religious professionals.)

What’s strange is that architects/engineers lag so far behind accountants and teachers and even lag behind skilled blue-collar workers like machine operators.

* * *

A study of obituaries from the NY Times showed that among the type of notable people who merit an obituary in the NY Times, athletes has the lower average age of death (77.4) than people notable in business (82.1).

Performers had the lowest average age of 77.1, but it’s believed to be because they are more likely to be heavy smokers and users of drugs and alcohol. Or maybe it’s just because performing isn’t a desk job?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 14, 2014 at 9:57 AM

38 Responses

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  1. It should be duly noted that physicians have a suicide rate as well. Of course, most physicians live great lives but it is something to consider as well.


    January 14, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    • The career path to becoming a physician is long and arduous. The financial rewards for the amount of studying and training seems almost serf like. It seems like doctors earn their dues during their middle age.


      January 14, 2014 at 5:17 PM

      • huh? 300k at 30 is now serf wages? whatchou talkin’ ’bout willis?

        dr dean edell said, “retire at 40 to barbados and it was all worth it.”

        median household income in the richest part of the upper e side, as reported by the census, is < 300k.

        jorge videla

        January 15, 2014 at 5:48 AM

      • More like 300K at 45, when you’ve officially become Dr. That’s USA for you.


        January 15, 2014 at 9:47 AM

      • @ jorge

        It normally takes 11 years to become doctor. 4 to get a BS. 4 years of medical school. And 3 years of residency. Most people are done around 30. But most don’t make anywhere near 300K. Pediatricians average 167K. GP’s 180K. ObGyn’s 216K and Surgeons 230K. I’ve read that top-notch surgeons can make significantly more but it’s not the norm and they certainly don’t make it at 30.


        January 15, 2014 at 9:13 PM

      • Training for many specialties lasts well into a typical physician’s thirties. After that, the first years of practice in most specialties won’t get him anywhere close to 300k. In a group practice, he would be a salaried non-partner for two to five years and would have to anticipate a hefty buy-in if partnership were offered at the end of that term. Most specialties no longer lend themselves well to solo practice, but for someone in one of the specialties that does, the first few years will be lean as it takes time to accumulate patients and establish referral networks. Junior academics in most specialties make less than 200k, and full professorship is never guaranteed.


        January 15, 2014 at 9:55 PM

      • Just the insane amount of schooling and time invested to become a doc isn’t really worth it, if money is what you’re aiming for. Why would people enjoy becoming a MD? Too much time, too expensive and too many long hours are a few things to be wary of.

        The best professional is the bean counter – accountant. No need for a post bac degree. Tax guys can rake in 200K easily, if they have the right clientele. And it’s low stress compared to a lawyer or a financeer.


        January 15, 2014 at 10:54 PM

      • @ destructure –

        Three years of residency only applies to general internal medicine, pediatrics, and family practice. Several other specialties require four years of residency, but in some of them it is difficult to get a job without at least one or two years of additional subspecialty fellowship training. And for anyone who wants to be a cardiologist, gastroenterologist, nephrologist, etc., a full three-year internal medicine residency is required before undertaking two to four years of fellowship training.


        January 16, 2014 at 8:33 PM

  2. Correlation with stress seems the answer here. But people seeking out low stress jobs might be genetically different also. Jay Man made some analysis about this based on IQ.


    January 14, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    • the correlation between identical twins’ age at death is very small. longevity may run in some families, but for most people genes have almost no say in age at death.

      jorge videla

      January 15, 2014 at 5:52 AM

  3. It has long been known that forestry is the most dangerous profession, even more dangerous than being in law enforcement. I’m surprised this is news to you.

    However I wonder if prostitution or drug dealing are considered in these studies. I’d think drug dealers have a higher mortality rate than foresters.

    I don’t know how to explain the mortality rate of engineers though. Perhaps higher suicide rates amongst people with Asperger’s? Or higher substance abuse rates? Off the top of my head, three engineers I’ve known are either alcoholics or prescription drug abusers.


    January 14, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    • i thought it was cab drivers.

      but breaking it down even further. “climbers of annapurna” are number 1.

      jorge videla

      January 15, 2014 at 5:54 AM

  4. I’m not Catholic but I think there are some “loopholes” in the prohibition against marriage in cases where someone was already married prior to entering the clergy. A Catholic co-worker of mine who doesn’t attend church that often said he was caught off guard recently when his priest mentioned having a wife.

    Jokah Macpherson

    January 14, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    • That priest used to be a married minister or priest in a non-Roman Catholic denomination, and then converted to Catholicism. That’s the only way married priests are allowed. I think there are a couple hundred or so of them in the U.S.

      Back in the sixties, there was widespread speculation that normal priests would be allowed to marry, but that never panned out.


      January 14, 2014 at 12:27 PM

  5. “Performers had the lowest average age of 77.1, but it’s believed to be because they are more likely to be heavy smokers and users of drugs and alcohol.”

    If by “performers” they’re referring to actors, entertainers, dancers, etc. etc., then I would imagine the life expectancy figures are also depressed by the incidence of AIDS, as well as risk taking behaviors (see: Paul Walker).

    Sgt. Joe Friday

    January 14, 2014 at 11:32 AM

  6. I used to work at an insurance company. I remember the workers’ comp rates for crop dusters as being the highest I saw

    January 14, 2014 at 12:22 PM

  7. It makes sense that men with high-status jobs would live longer in general. The “virtuous cycle” would dictate the the successful man would attract more women. Approval and sex from women => happiness => => more success => more women => family => incentive to be successful => reason to live =>happiness =>greater health, and on and on.

    Meanwhile, men in low status or middling jobs have the vicious cycle.


    January 14, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    • this isn’t even true in apes. the alpha is not more successful in reproduction than the rest. look it up.

      status is, in fact, part of what the Cynics called “typhos”. it is totally unnatural for the human animal. human savages status-less and promiscuous. so are chimps btw. humans are far less sexually dimorphic than apes, and far weaker. status envy is a disease of civilization.

      jorge videla

      January 15, 2014 at 5:44 AM

      • Status is only a USA thing for the most part, along with parts of 3rd world Asia.


        January 15, 2014 at 9:58 AM

      • In the past, yes. Not now when abortions are legal.

        People who do have money and status have more descendants now. Jocks’ offsprings are taken from the womb and burnt, unless the jock happens to be like a famous quarterback.


        January 15, 2014 at 2:12 PM

      • Inner city NAMs have more descendants than most people with status.


        January 15, 2014 at 2:52 PM

  8. I never understood, from a scientific viewpoint, how could physical exercise result in higher life expectancy, other by being a statistical proxy.

    Exercise causes intense oxidative stress and molecular friction in the organism.


    January 14, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    • Hormesis I guess?

      Jokah Macpherson

      January 14, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    • Hormetic affect


      January 14, 2014 at 1:42 PM

  9. Architects and engineers are probably out on building sites and expose themselves to some of the risks that construction workers are exposed too.

    Funny that watch makers have 129.2. You’d think that would be a quiet and unrisky job. Perhaps they get their fingers stuck in the cogs and bleed out before the ambulance arrives.


    January 14, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    • They are stuck in a small area like chicken. Baruch Spinoza spent all of his life grinding lenses. He died around 45, which was not old even at that time.


      January 15, 2014 at 2:13 PM

  10. College professors live longer lives, because they are working in a field that they love. Hiding behind the university seems almost stress free to what real life/mainstream workers experience.


    January 14, 2014 at 5:19 PM

  11. Unemployed inner-city black males probably have the lowest life expectancy.

    E. Rekshun

    January 14, 2014 at 5:24 PM

    • Thank God.

      Rayvonn Martin

      January 15, 2014 at 11:19 AM

  12. I’m surprised you don’t factor testosterone (genes) into the equation. Engineers probably have a higher test. level than other professionals. That stuff is a killer.


    January 14, 2014 at 10:46 PM

  13. Causation?

    See here:

    IQ and Death | JayMan’s Blog


    January 15, 2014 at 4:06 AM

  14. “so Catholic priests probably have lower life expectancy than other clergy and religious professionals.”

    but monks are known to live a long time, and nuns are the longest lived of any job category. never married childless women are grossly overrepresented among centenarians. and the two longest lived men in the us, who are also the longest lived ever, one never married and died childless. the other was married and divorced and died childless.

    jorge videla

    January 15, 2014 at 5:36 AM

  15. Athletes and Performers become “noteworthy” at a young age. Business success, at the level that rates an Obituary in the Times, takes much longer.

    So if the pool of famous athletes and performers has a younger age than the pool of noteworthy business persons, then it isn’t surprising that the average age of death among the former is younger than the latter.

    Someone once noted that Nobel Prize winners live a lot longer than other people. Again, it’s not because of the health benefits of the Nobel; it’s because by the time they got the Nobel, they had missed their chance to die young!

    Aleph One

    January 15, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    • kirk kirkorian aside, billionaires age at death exceeds the median for their gender by only three years according to forbes. but as i’ve commented before, no one makes a billion who didn’t love what it took to get there.

      jorge videla

      January 15, 2014 at 8:01 PM

  16. here you are lion, i guess a japanese man recently surpassed them:

    2 Christian Mortensen 16 August 1882 25 April 1998 115 years, 252 days United States[a]
    3 Emiliano Mercado del Toro 21 August 1891 24 January 2007 115 years, 156 days Puerto Rico

    mortensen was an immigrant from dk. he married and divorced when divorce was much less common. he died childless. del toro never married and died childless.

    “Santrock’s book also noted that the largest group of centenarians are women who have never been married.”

    the following on dutch monks is true of monks everywhere:

    jorge videla

    January 15, 2014 at 7:55 PM

  17. What’s strange is that architects/engineers lag so far behind accountants and teachers and even lag behind skilled blue-collar workers like machine operators.

    Architects is surprising but not engineers. Despite a well-earned reputation for bookishness, there’s also a fairly masculine, competitive streak in a lot of engineers. I’d say it’s definitely one of the higher ‘T’ professions. Not every engineer spends all day at a desk in front of a computer. There are plant engineers, field engineers, automation engineers, etc. I know several machine builders who are missing digits and another who had his hand crushed in a press. Some of the environments can be pretty rough. It doesn’t surprise me at all that they have a higher mortality.

    I knew lumberjacks were high. So are fishing, pilots and flight engineers. Surprisingly, the police mortality is actually fairly low — less than truck drivers and maintenance workers.


    January 15, 2014 at 9:39 PM

    • (cont)

      On second thought, I’ll bet architect mortality is low. They probably just lumped them in with engineers because they’re similar fields.


      January 15, 2014 at 9:44 PM

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