Discussion paper

DP14933 CEO Stress, Aging, and Death

We estimate the long-term effects of experiencing high levels of job demands on the mortality and aging of CEOs. The estimation exploits variation in takeover protection and industry crises. First, using hand-collected data on the dates of birth and death for 1,605 CEOs of large, publicly-listed U.S. firms, we estimate the resulting changes in mortality. The hazard estimates indicate that CEOs’ lifespan increases by two years when insulated from market discipline via anti-takeover laws, and decreases by 1.5 years in response to an industry-wide downturn. Second, we apply neural-network based machine-learning techniques to assess visible signs of aging in pictures of CEOs. We estimate that exposure to a distress shock during the Great Recession increases CEOs’ apparent age by one year over the next decade. Our findings imply significant health costs of managerial stress, also relative to known health risks.


Borgschulte, M, M Guenzel, C Liu and U Malmendier (2020), ‘DP14933 CEO Stress, Aging, and Death‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 14933. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14933