25 January 2018 – Adriaan Kalwij

The Effects of Competition Outcomes on Health: Evidence from the Lifespans of U.S. Olympic Medalists

Speaker(s): Adriaan Kalwij (Utrecht University)

Date: Thursday, 25 January 2018

Time: 12:00-13:00

Venue: H12-30

Contact person(s): Teresa Bago d'Uva


This paper investigates the effects of competition outcomes on health by using U.S. Olympic medalist lifespans and medal colors as a natural experiment. Whereas the life expectancies of bronze and gold medalists do not differ significantly, life expectancy of silver medalists is about 2.4 and 3.9 years less than these former, respectively. These findings are readily explainable by insights from behavioral economics, psychology, and human biology, which suggest that (perceived) dissatisfactory competition outcomes may adversely affect health. Competition outcomes that affect socioeconomic status (SES) could, therefore, play an important causal role in the positive SES-health gradient among the general population.