While the Olympic Games occupy our screens, a British study on the life expectancy of athletes could well convince some viewers to join a sports club at the start of the school year.
Playing sports at a high level would extend its lifespan.
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Thus, by playing cricket, rugby, tennis or golf, one could gain 9 to 13% of life span compared to the general population, according to the study conducted by Professor Les Mayhew, head of research at the Center. UK Longevity International and Professor of Statistics at the University of London Business School, and published in May 2021. His team looked at seven sports: football, cricket, rugby , tennis, golf, boxing and horse racing by selecting British athletes with successful courses. Data from the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics (ONS) were used to compare the life expectancy of athletes with that of the general population, over the period 1841 to 2020.
Not all sports have the same benefits. Footballers have a life expectancy similar to that of the general population. Boxing and horse racing are even sports where mortality is higher than the general population. These three sports have the highest risk of head injury and concussion. And while tennis and golf show good scores for longevity, the study notes that this may be because these two sports "
can be played at a high level until a relatively late age.
As for the factors that affect the longevity of athletes, the authors do not give a definitive opinion and leave several possibilities open: socio-economic standard of living, level of education, leadership qualities, prospects for financial rewards ...
More safety for athletes
The study also looked at the survival rate of athletes, which overall improved for all sports between 1900 and 2020. This improvement is mainly due to increased safety.
horse racing was more dangerous in the 19th century and early 1900s, when the number of premature deaths was high
From now on, for jockeys, “
exposure to risk is comparable to that of the general population
», Indicate the authors.
On the other hand, footballers lived longer between 1900 and 1960 than since the 1960s. This is due to games played more frequently and heavier balls.
Boxers are also seeing their life expectancy decline.
The advantage of rugby players over the general population has increased from 6% before the 1960s to 10% today.
The most notable increase concerns tennis players, whose advantage over the general population has increased by 15%.
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The researchers also analyzed the number of athletes alive in a given year compared to the expected number. And they conclude: “
If we base our analysis only on those living in 2020, we find that there are now 36% more Wimbledon finalists than one would expect if they had the same. mortality than the average man. This compares to 16% more English rugby captains, 14% cricket captains, 9% British Open champions, 3% derby winners, 2% football captains but 7% fewer boxing champions. heavy goods vehicles
This study therefore confirms the positive influence that sport can have on health. However, it has certain limitations: the athletes studied are only men, in the absence of sufficient historical data for women. Only certain sports are studied. The authors intend "to
work closely with sports associations in the future to fill these gaps
" and indicate that many axes remain to be studied.