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Mind Over Body

Elite chess players live longer than the general population and have a similar survival advantage to elite competitors in physical sports. This is the conclusion of a recent study, performed by the University of Queensland, aimed to examine if the survival advantage of elite athletes counted for mind sports as well. The study found that life expectancy of chess grandmasters (GMs) at the age of thirty, was 53.6, compared to 45.9 for the general population. There was little statistical difference between chess masters and Olympic medallists. The accompanying figure shows the survival rate of GMs and OMs from 28 countries relative to the general population from the same countries, and shows just how much longer both GMs and OMs live compared to a regular Joe. The study brings up multiple arguments for the statistical differences between GMs and the general population:

  • To be able to attain the Grandmaster title an individual may be encouraged to make necessary health improvements (e.g. reduced smoking and alcohol consumption, improved nutrition, more regular cardiovascular exercise, etc.) to improve one’s cognitive performance.
  • There is evidence that suggests that playing chess can reduce the risk of dementia, as well as physically alter the structure of the brain
  • Becoming a chess grandmaster may provide an economic and social boost, which has been strongly linked to increased life expectancy



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