Is presidential aging an urban myth?

In the last few days I have heard several talking heads bring out the old saw about how the office ages the presidents before their time. Just now on ABC they showed a couple of before/after pictures of Bush.

But, c’mon. If you showed two photos of me eight years apart you would say I’ve aged, too. Wow, being an IT manager really takes its toll :wink:

Has there been any effort to actually compare aging of the presidents to some baseline for aging by people of the same age over the same time period?

At the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, one of the films they show features some facial recognition expert (or something) who points out two photos of Lincoln, one taken early in his presidency and one taken late in his presidency. The expert points out the differences in his face - stress lines, etc., that are more exaggerated than they should have been over the course of four years for a regular person.

I’m apt to call BS on this one too.
You can find good and bad photos of a president within the same week.
Get a shot of them arriving at a formal dinner after a shower, shave, and a haircut and they’ll look young.
Get a shot of them after a week of 18 hour meetings and they’re going to look plenty disheveled. 5 o’clock shadow, mussed hair, tired eyes.

Tabloids do the same thing with celebs:
“Oh no, Britney looks pale with no make up and look at that celulite. tsk, tsk.”
(couple weeks later)
“She’s back! With great hair, tan, tight abs. It’s a miracle!”

I believe its true. I don’t think there is more stressful job. Imagine all the stuff he has to deal with. For example, doesn’t president have to contact the parents of all the dead soldiers from the war? Some of those exchanges must have been harsh. He was ragged and ridiculed everyday of his presidency. Right now, his father looks healthier.

Given that everyone ages differently, I’m not sure a study can be put together that I would trust.

This issue tends to come up after a two-term president’s second term ends. Looking back eight years for a middle-aged man is going to show his age no matter who he is. And while the stress of being the leader of the free world would be great, consider how pampered the president is compared to say, a typical middle-aged policeman.

It’s more striking to me how much Bush senior has aged since he left office…

I’ve always looked younger than I am, even though my face isn’t babyish at all. I’ve had a hell of a last 3-4 years and I now look my age. Granted, I’m 40 and the good luck can’t last forever, but I’ve aged more in those years than in the previous twenty. Example: I routinely got carded for cigarettes up to about 3 years ago. Now? Not even for alcohol. People are far more likely to guess my age accurately now than ever in my life. I don’t dye my hair for sport anymore, the grey has exploded.

I also firmly believe in lying UP, I tell people I’m 50, cause baby, I look great for 50. Presidents don’t have that luxury, on the other hand, they have great medical care.

I can’t imagine that being POTUS can have the same sort of effect.

I don’t question whether the job is stressful, but I have not seen the science on a direct link between a stressful job and accelerating the process of physical aging (wrinkles, gray hair, etc.).

The president does not contact parents of all dead soldiers. Maybe not any. The military notifies families, either in person or by letter. I think during WWII they used to send telegrams. Over 4,000 Americanshave been killed in Iraq in less than six years, averaging about 2 a day. A president just doesn’t have time for that, even if he’s the one who got us into this.

Did you see this article in the Washington Post? Here’s the relevant quote:

Michael Roizen is that RealAge guy.

I don’t think it’s a myth though I’d be interested to see a real scientific study on it. Just thinking about it though, we all know that high levels of constant stress can prematurely age people…and I really can’t think of a more stressful job than the President of the US. Why in the gods name anyone would WANT the job is beyond me.

I guess we’ll see. Obama is a pretty young President (he’s actually younger than I am…a first for me, but then I’m getting a bit long in the tooth myself). I have zero doubts he’ll be a two timer, so we should be able to judge before and after and see if the effect is real. My guess is that it’s going to vary depending on the person (just as regular aging depends on the individual), but that the office is going to noticeably age him above and beyond his actual aging (i.e. over what he WOULD look like at 53 or 54 when he gets out) during his term.


All I know is over the past week I’ve been seeing clips from the Bush retrospective circa 2001, and I keep catching myself saying “who is that smug-looking punk behind the podium?” I seriously don’t recognize him in half his clips from that era. I think Bush aged quite a bit just in those first few years of his presidency. Check this link… I think the “angry chimp” was well in effect by 2003-ish.

Of course, scientifically speaking, this is one of those things that isn’t really knowable. We can’t roll the clock back to 2000, appoint Gore president instead of Bush, and then compare that timeline to this one (as much as many of us would like to do that).

In Lincoln’s case, though, he suffered from ill health.

Yep. I guarantee you this will be the* last* stress-free day for Obama (right now he’s dancing with Michelle Obama at the inaugural balls; tomorrow it’s day 1 at the Oval Office and the burden of being POTUS)

Well, on one end, Ronald Reagans hair got darker and BLACKER (if thats possible) over his 8 years.

Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, looked like had had a close encounter with a Wraith sometime during his 4 years in office.

It’s certainly possible. It just required some help.

I don’t think he’s really had a stress-free day in the last year.

Well, after they brief you on “the grays” and the debris from area 51, it takes it’s toll.

We need a president to have a twin. Besides the age of presidents is the time in there life were aging shows most is it not?

While I don’t know this for sure, if I was looking for a mechanism, I’d explore cortisol, a hormone released during and after stressful events or times, or the memory of a stressful event or time. Cortisol, among other effects, is known to increase dehydration, decrease bone density and increase osteoporosis, weaken the immune systems by reducing the formation of T-cells, and long-term exposure to cortisol can damage the hippocampus, and therefore memory formation and recall. In short, if it doesn’t make you *look *old, it sure makes you *feel *old!

The deceased soldier’s commanding officer has the duty of writing the letter. I know that Lincoln wrote a few letters himself to families. I don’t know if Bush wrote any, but I’m sure he signed a lot.

It was a rabbit, actually.

Bill Clinton also looked quite a bit older by the end of his tenure.