Being the leader of a nation is not a task for the weak-hearted--both in a figurative and literal sense--as the job may require a wellspring of patience and good health.

However, a new study revealed that elected government heads may actually age sooner and die prematurely because of their positions.

The link between a government leader's lifespan and elected position has long been studied before. A 2011 study compared the lifespan of American presidents to that of the general population, and found that life expectancy for the former were no better than that of the latter.

The same idea was examined by a new team of researchers, but this time, they measured data involving elected government heads against other candidates who lost the elections.

In a report featured in the British Medical Journal, experts compared leaders of 17 countries with would-be prime ministers and presidents did not win.

This was done as winners and losers were more alike to one another than they are to normal citizens. As candidates, both have access to better health care services, and were more likely to die from assassinations.

In the end, researchers calculated that a winning candidate may lose an average of 2.7 years in his or her life. American presidents were found to live 12 years on average after their last election, while runners-up lived about 19 years. Even after taking note of the fact that some elected government heads were older than the losers, they still lived about 4.4 fewer years.

Anupam Jena, the lead author of the study, said it was difficult to pinpoint why being the head of the government might make someone age sooner or die prematurely, but she said stress was more likely to be involved.

"The increase in mortality among those leading a nation, relative to others in politics, may stem from the greater responsibility and stress of the job," said Jena. "The decisions are more impactful, the spotlight is greater, and I suspect the job is even more strenuous."

Jenna suggested that reducing stress would possibly slow down the acceleration of aging, but it may not reverse it.

Aside from the U.S. candidates, Jena and her colleagues also examined differences between elected world leaders and failed candidates from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Spain, Poland, Norway, New Zealand, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Germany, France, Finland, Denmark, Canada, Austria and Australia during 1722 to 2015.

Photo: Steve Jurvetson/Gage Skidmore | Flickr

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