10 April 2008

Research suggests stalwarts of the England cricket team such as Andrew Flintoff and Michael Vaughan can look forward to a long life. A University of St Andrews study which appears in the British Journal of Sports Medicine analysed data on the 418 cricketers who played Test match cricket for England between 1876 and 1963.

This enabled him to take account of the impact of social background - which is known to influence longevity - by drawing a distinction between amateur "gentlemen" players and professional cricketers (a distinction that was scrapped in 1963), who tended to have more humble roots.

Overall, "gentleman amateurs" who played in many Test matches lived an average of 79.3 years, while those who played in just a few Tests lived to an average of 75.0 years. "Professional" players who made many Test appearances lived to an average of 76.6 years, but the average life expectancy of those who played in few Tests was just 71.5 years.

Previous research has suggested that people in low status jobs may be more likely to suffer from poor health, possibly due to stress and frustration (This was amply borne out in the Whitehall Studies).Professor Boyle said his findings suggested that the converse may also be true: success in a satisfying job may boost health. "Playing for the national side is the pinnacle of a cricketing career and is likely to have long-term benefits, both in terms of kudos and future working opportunities.” He said. "It seems reasonable to suppose that reaching such a privileged position would therefore have long-term implications for the person involved."

Professor Boyle said it was possible that the most-capped players were simply stronger and healthier than their colleagues, but he argued that the physical difference between players who played a small or large number of tests was likely to be very small.

However, he found no association between captaining England - which could be defined as the ultimate success - and longevity.

Dr Tarani Chandola, from University College London, has carried out research into the effect of stress in the workplace. "Most studies have investigated the negative health impacts of work stress. There are a few that suggest positive success at work has long-lasting positive health effects - and that it is not simply the lack of work stress that contributes to good health among high status groups."

So playing cricket at the highest level cam increase your longevity? As someone who emphatically failed Norman Tebbit’s cricket test there was never a chance of that! I can say, however, that watching cricket does seem to extend life – a five-day test match would pass more slowly than the Hundred Years War


jmb said...

Sigh, your tax dollars at work again. The result is surprising given that as much time is spent in the pub as at the oval so they should all have died of psorosis of the liver. Maybe that's only in Australia and not in Britain.

Of course the old time amateurs had to work to support their cricketing habit so maybe that made them fitter.

jams o donnell said...

A lot of the amateurs were men of private means. Mercifully that distinction is long gone.

Interestingly the study looked at one Australian team from the late 40s and only one died before 65. Most lived to beyond 80 - Bradman and one other well into their 90s