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Do presidents age more rapidly?

Today in 1923, President Warren G. Harding died suddenly of a stroke in San Francisco. Just after midnight, Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President by his father on the other side of the country in Vermont.

Harding was the sixth president to die in office, and the second in a row to have a stroke. Woodrow Wilson has suffered a massive stroke in Colorado in October 1919, and sequestered himself in the White House (with rare exception) until the end of his presidential term.

Being president, it seems, is a dangerous business. Harding was the twenty-eighth president of the United States. Statistically speaking, the odds of dying in office back then were one in four.

These days, being the president is slightly less risky (two in eleven), but the stresses are the same. A doctor at the Cleveland Clinic, Michael Roizan, MD, has done the math: it seems presidents age two years for every year they are in office, due to the stress of the position.

Few presidents had more stress than Abraham Lincoln. Take a look at the two photos below. One was taken in 1860, before Lincoln became president, the other is the last known portrait of Lincoln in 1865.

Mathew Brady photo of Lincoln, Feb 27, 1860. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian

Mathew Brady photo of Lincoln, Feb 27, 1860. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian

Alexander Gardner's photo of Lincoln, April 10, 1865, Library of Congress

Alexander Gardner's photo of Lincoln, April 10, 1865, Library of Congress

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Comments

Comment from Gary Lutz
Time August 2, 2010 at 12:58 pm

It is interesting to trace how the office affected each President, from Lincoln’s aging to Taft’s weight. However, to my mind, Abraham Lincoln aged the most, without question.

God willing, may no President ever have to bear the burdens, both Presidential and personal, while in office that he bore ever again. The entire nation fighting with itself, at its own throat, brother against brother, on the brink of its own destruction from within…

Comment from Professional SEO
Time February 19, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Certainly it seems that presidents do age much more rapidly, based on observation.