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Baseball and the longevity threat

Allen Wastler

Posted on March 29, 2023

Allen Wastler is a former financial journalist with over 30-years of experience, including time at CNBC, CNN, and Knight-Ridder Newspapers.
Baseball and longevity

Here’s a little factoid to keep in mind when watching professional baseball: Not only are the diamond denizens getting paid to play a game … they are likely to live longer too.

That’s right. Harvard researchers concluded in a 2019 study, published in a medical journal, that major league baseball players are 24 percent less likely to die prematurely than men in the general population.1 That echoes an earlier study by the University of Houston, which concluded that major leaguers are likely to live about five years longer.2

Makes sense, right? To make it to the major leagues, these gentlemen already have to be pretty healthy. And they are out there exercising and breathing fresh air all day long to boot.

Well, that’s part of it.

Baseball and health

“Compared to the general male population, MLB players enjoy longer life expectancies, in part because they are selected for fitness and talent, and they have high levels of physical activity and prestige during their baseball careers,” the Houston study declared.

But there’s more. The longer they play, the better the odds that they will live longer.

“Career length is inversely associated with the risk of death, likely because those who play longer gain additional incomes, physical fitness, and training,” the Houston study found.

Given the average male longevity in the United States is a little over 77 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, that means successful pro baseball players can contemplate living into their 80s.

Which leads to something everyone should contemplate. The longer you live the greater the potential impact all of the retirement risks (inflation, excessive withdrawals, health care costs, etc.) could have on your ability to sustain an income. At the same time, your cognitive abilities to make financial decisions could be declining the longer you live. The combination can be concerning. (Related: Planning for your old age while still of sound mind)

chart longevity

That should prompt you, whether you’re a ballplayer or not, to think about retirement strategies that will keep you comfortable during that longevity. We have some suggestions here.

And that’s our pitch.

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This article was originally published April 2016. It has been updated.









1 Vy T. Nguyen, MS1; Ross D. Zafonte, DO2; Kale Z. Kponee-Shovein, MPH1,3; et aAMA, “All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Major League Baseball Players,” July 22, 2019.

2 Saint Onge JM, Rogers RG, Krueger PM. Major League Baseball Players’ Life Expectancies. Social Science Quarterly. 2008;89(3):817-830. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6237.2008.00562.x. July 17, 2008.

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