Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Mortality of Japanese Olympic athletes: 1952–2017 cohort study
  1. Taro Takeuchi1,
  2. Yuri Kitamura1,
  3. Junya Sado2,
  4. Satoshi Hattori3,
  5. Yumiko Kanemura4,
  6. Yoshihiko Naito4,
  7. Kohei Nakajima5,6,
  8. Toru Okuwaki5,
  9. Ken Nakata2,
  10. Takashi Kawahara5,6,
  11. Tomotaka Sobue1
  1. 1Department of Social Medicine, Osaka University, Suita, Japan
  2. 2Department of Health and Sports Sciences, Osaka University, Suita, Japan
  3. 3Department of Integrated Medicine, Osaka University, Suita, Japan
  4. 4Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Mukogawa Women's University, Nishinomiya, Japan
  5. 5Japan Institute of Sports Sciences, Kita-ku, Japan
  6. 6Japanese Olympic Committee, Tokyo, Japan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yuri Kitamura; ytkitamura{at}; tarogauss106072{at}


Aim To evaluate mortality among Japanese Olympic athletes compared with the general population and also evaluate their mortality based on total number of Olympics participation and intensity of sports disciplines.

Methods Information on biography, vital status, date of birth, date of death and latest follow-up date on Japanese Olympians was retrieved from six online databases and compared. Standardised mortality ratio (SMR) was estimated according to observation periods and years from last participation in the Olympics. To further evaluate the association between mortality and total number of Olympics participation/intensity of sports disciplines within the study population, rate ratios (RRs) adjusted by sex, observation period and attained age group were estimated by a Poisson regression model.

Results A total of 3381 Olympians were included in the analysis. The total person years was 94 076.82. The deaths of 153 (4.53%) Olympians were confirmed, and the overall SMR was 0.29 (95% CI, 0.25 to 0.34). SMRs categorised by years from last participation did not differ significantly. Higher mortality was observed among those who participated in the Olympics twice (RR: 1.52; 95% CI, 1.04 to 2.23) and three times or more (RR: 1.87; 95% CI, 1.08 to 3.25) compared with those who participated just once. Compared with combination of low static and low dynamic intensity category, higher mortality was observed in most combinations of middle-intensity or high-intensity categories.

Conclusion Japanese Olympians lived longer than the general population. More frequent participation in the Olympics and higher intensity of sports disciplines were associated with higher mortality.

  • olympics
  • athlete
  • epidemiology
  • longevity

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from


  • Contributors TT collected the data from online databases, processed the data, conducted analyses and wrote the manuscript. SH contributed to the analyses and reviewed the manuscript from the biostatistical point of view. Other co-authors contributed to the study design, data collection and analyses, and revised the manuscript. All of the authors have approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study was supported by Grant-in-Aid for challenging Exploratory Research (17K19906) and Sports Research Innovation Project (SRIP).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.