The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Actuarial math: Trump has a slightly higher chance of dying in office than Clinton


Both Donald Trump, 70, and Hillary Clinton, who turns 69 on Oct. 26, are among the oldest major-party candidates ever to seek the presidency. But actuarial calculations show that both have an excellent chance of completing a second term in good health, though Trump has a slightly higher chance of dying in office, according to an Atlanta actuarial company that specializes in estimates of life and health expectancy.

By the end of an eighth year of a two-term presidency, Trump has a 1 in 12 (8.43 percent) chance of dying in office, compared to a 1 in 17 chance (5.89 percent) for Clinton, according to calculations done for The Fact Checker by Bragg Associates.

The same firm had calculated that President Obama’s 2008 rival, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), then 72, had a 1 in 4 chance of dying by the end of a two-term presidency. McCain had a history of skin cancer and had been a smoker, which were key factors in the firm’s calculations. He was also running for president against a much younger man: Obama was 47 at the time.

Clinton’s chances of dying in office are virtually indistinguishable from Obama’s chances eight years ago, according to the firm.

Yet Trump and his allies have tried to fan speculation about the state of Clinton’s health, which has circulated in the right-wing blogosphere and been featured by Fox News host Sean Hannity. Both candidates have released letters from their doctors attesting to their fitness to serve, but the Clinton campaign has highlighted concerns about a hyperbolic and largely uninformative letter released by Trump’s doctor.

For the 2016 campaign, Bragg Associates examined publicly available data about the health records of the candidates. It then drew on the Bragg Life Tables, a vast database based on from the experiences of more than 20 life insurance companies, and statistical data relating to the morbidity and mortality of people with and without numerous medical ailments. Clients obtain such individualized estimates of health and life expectancy when buying long-term care and other insurance.

Linda Bragg Cuthbertson, a mortality studies specialist at the firm, said Clinton’s mortality factor was increased slightly because she had had a head injury in 2012 that resulted in a concussion and a blood clot. But Clinton has a lower chance of dying in office than Trump because she is a woman — and women below age 77 have higher life expectancy than men of a similar age.

Both Trump and Clinton get credit for never having smoked. Trump says he never drank alcohol but under the firm’s calculations he does not get credit for that; the firm only records alcohol misuse as a factor. The firm also does not weigh the impact of a person’s diet. Trump is known to prefer fast food, while Clinton has a healthy, varied diet.

In any case, the firm estimates, both Trump and Clinton are expected to remain healthy for many years — Trump for 17 years and Clinton for 19 years.

The firm also examined the life expectancy of Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential nominee. The 64-year-old former New Mexico governor has a chance of dying in office that is virtually the same as Clinton. He does not get credit for not having smoked because he has admitted to marijuana use. Because he is younger, he is calculated to be healthy for another 22 years, the report said.

“Bragg Associates has provided this as a public service and has no partisan interest in the results as was true eight years ago when we did this for Obama/McCain,” Cuthbertson said. “If any of the campaigns wish to provide any further medical information we would be happy to run them again. We have had no contact with any of the campaigns.”

As for McCain, he’s currently running for a sixth term in the U.S. Senate.

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