The Annals of Applied Statistics

The effect of winning an Oscar Award on survival: Correcting for healthy performer survivor bias with a rank preserving structural accelerated failure time model

Xu Han, Dylan S. Small, Dean P. Foster, and Vishal Patel

Full-text: Open access


We study the causal effect of winning an Oscar Award on an actor or actress’s survival. Does the increase in social rank from a performer winning an Oscar increase the performer’s life expectancy? Previous studies of this issue have suffered from healthy performer survivor bias, that is, candidates who are healthier will be able to act in more films and have more chance to win Oscar Awards. To correct this bias, we adapt Robins’ rank preserving structural accelerated failure time model and g-estimation method. We show in simulation studies that this approach corrects the bias contained in previous studies. We estimate that the effect of winning an Oscar Award on survival is 4.2 years, with a 95% confidence interval of [−0.4, 8.4] years. There is not strong evidence that winning an Oscar increases life expectancy.

Article information

Ann. Appl. Stat. Volume 5, Number 2A (2011), 746-772.

First available: 13 July 2011

Permanent link to this document

Digital Object Identifier

Mathematical Reviews number (MathSciNet)

Zentralblatt MATH identifier


Han, Xu; Small, Dylan S.; Foster, Dean P.; Patel, Vishal. The effect of winning an Oscar Award on survival: Correcting for healthy performer survivor bias with a rank preserving structural accelerated failure time model. The Annals of Applied Statistics 5 (2011), no. 2A, 746--772. doi:10.1214/10-AOAS424.

Export citation


  • Abel, E. L. and Kruger, M. L. (2005). The longevity of Baseball hall of famers compared to other players. Death Studies 29 959–963.
  • Cox, D. R. and Oakes, D. (1984). Analysis of Survival Data. Chapman and Hall, London.
  • Efron, B. (2002). The two-way proportional hazards model. J. R. Stat. Soc. Ser. B Stat. Methodol. 64 899–909.
  • Ferrie, J. E., Shipley, M. J., Davey, S. G., Stansfeld, S. A. and Marmot, M. G. (2002). Change in health inequalities among British civil servants: The Whitehall II study. Journal of Epidemiology and Communitiy Health 56 922–926.
  • Gehrlein, W. V. and Kher, H. V. (2004). Decision rules for the Academy Awards versus those for elections. Interfaces 34 226–234.
  • Han, X., Small, D., Foster, D. and Patel, V. (2010). Supplement to “The effect of winning an Oscar Award on survival: Correcting for healthy performer survivor bias with a rank preserving structural accelerated failure time model.” DOI: 10.1214/10-AOAS424SUPPA, DOI: 10.1214/10-AOAS424SUPPB.
  • Hernán, M. A., Cole, S. R., Margolick, J. B., Cohen, M. H. and Robins, J. M. (2005). Structural accelerated failure time models for survival analysis in studies with time-varying treatments. Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety 14 477–491.
  • Hodges, J. L. and Lehmann, E. L. (1963). Estimates of location based on rank tests. Ann. Math. Statist. 34 598–611.
  • Joffe, M. M., Hoover, D. R., Jacobson, L. P., Kingsley, L., Chmiel, J. S., Visscher, B. R. and Robins, J. M. (1998). Estimating the effect of zidovudine on Kaposi’s Sarcoma from observational data using a rank preserving structural failure-time model. Stat. Med. 17 1073–1102.
  • Lok, J., Gill, R., Van Der Vaart, A. and Robins, J. (2004). Estimating the causal effect of a time-varying treatment on time-to-event using structural nested failure time models. Statist. Neerlandica 58 271–295.
  • Marmot, M. G., Davey, S. G., Stansfeld, S., Patel, C., North, F., Head, J., White, I., Brunner, E. and Feeney, A. (1991). Health inequalities among British civil servants: The Whitehall II study. Lancet 337 1387–1393.
  • Marmot, M. G., Rose, G. and Hamilton, P. J. S. (1978). Employment grade and coronary heart disease in British civil servants. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 32 244–249.
  • Marmot, M. G., Shipley, M. J. and Rose, G. (1984). Inequalities in death—specific explanations of a general pattern? Lancet 323 1003–1006.
  • McFadden, D. (1974). Conditional logit analysis of qualitative choice behavior. In Frontiers in Econometrics (P. Zarembka, ed.) 105–142. Academic Press, New York.
  • Rablen, M. D. and Oswald, A. J. (2008). Mortality and immortality: The Nobel Prize as an experiment into the effect of status upon longevity. Journal of Health Economics 27 1462–1471.
  • Redelmeier, D. A. and Singh, S. M. (2001). Survival in Academy Award—winning actors and actresses. Ann. Intern. Med. 134 955–962.
  • Reid, D. D., Brett, G. Z., Hamilton, P. J. S., Jarrett, R. J., Keen, H. and Rose, G. (1974). Cardio-respiratory disease and diabetes among middle-aged male civil servants: A study of screening and intervention. Lancet 303 469–473.
  • Robins, J. M. (1986). A new approach to causal inference in mortality studies with a sustained exposure period—applications to control of the healthy worker survivor effect. Math. Model. 7 1393–1512.
  • Robins, J. M. (1992). Estimation of the time-dependent accelerated failure time model in the presence of confounding factors. Biometrika 79 321–334.
  • Robins, J. M. (1993). Analytic methods for estimating HIV treatment and cofactor effects. In Methodological Issues of AIDS Mental Health Research 213–290. Plenum Publishing, New York.
  • Robins, J. M. (2008). Causal models for estimating the effects of weight gain on mortality. International Journal of Obesity 32 S15–S41.
  • Robins, J. M., Blevins, D., Ritter, G. and Wulfson, M. (1992). g-estimation of the effect of prophylaxis therapy for pneumocystis carinii pneumonia on the survival of AIDS patients. Epidemiology 3 319–336.
  • Sapolsky, R. (2005). The influence of social hierarchy on primate health. Science 308 648–652.
  • Small, D., Gastwirth, J., Krieger, A. and Rosenbaum, P. (2006). R-estimates vs. GMM: A theoretical case study of validity and efficiency. Statist. Sci. 21 363–375.
  • Sylvestre, M. P., Huszti, E. and Hanley, J. A. (2006). Do Oscar winners live longer than less successful peers? A reanalysis of the evidence. Ann. Intern. Med. 145 361–363.

Supplemental materials

  • Supplementary material A: Oscar Award data for actors and actresses. We have compiled a data file that records the nominees and winners for each award (best lead actor, best lead actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress) on each Oscar Award date. We collected the data from The selection interval spanned from the inception of the Oscar Awards to July 25, 2007.
  • Supplementary material B: R code for data analysis and simulation. We provide the R code for our data analysis and simulation studies. File “R code.txt” is for preprocessing the Oscar data and data analysis in Section 4. File “simulation 1.txt” is for the simulation studies in Sections 2.4 and 3.5, especially for Tables 4, 12, and Figure 3. File “simulation 2.txt” is for the simulation studies in Tables 5–10 and Figures 1 and 2.