Published: 07/04/2005, Volume II5, No. 5949 Page 36

HSJ organises a high-profile awards ceremony for innovation and best practice in healthcare, but this remains practically unique. So what symbols of reward and recognition can health service managers really aspire to?

This might be more important than people realise; new research into the Academy Awards finds that prizes have such dramatic and positive effects on the lives of winners that a lack of similar signifiers of success could have implications for the morale of managers.

New medical research shows that winning an Oscar increases performers' lifespans to such an extent that it is equivalent to rendering them immune from cancer.

The startling result, reported by Dr Donald Redelmeier and Dr Sheldon Singh from Toronto, is that winning an award leads to an increase in average life expectancy of almost four years compared to those who are merely nominated, and almost six years over those who appear in the same films but are not nominated.

The dramatically improved health and longer lifespan that results from winning an Oscar is the equivalent of a 28 per cent reduction in death rates. Or if translated to the population at large would be the equivalent of curing all cancers in all people for all time.

The theory that explains this effect focuses on the health significance of differences in status and prestige.

A recent study on civil servants found that, on average, those in lower status positions died younger than those in higher status jobs.

The crucial factor seemed to be that those in higher status positions have more control over their work compared to lower status colleagues, and it now seems that a sense of control over your life has huge health implications.

Gaining an award is a massive boost to the ego, and another theory purports that the secret to a longer life might be self-esteem.

If status and self-esteem are the crucial variables, this raises some sobering questions about how the NHS encourages these traits in managers in what remains a largely award-free zone.

Dr Raj Persaud is consultant psychiatrist at South London and Maudsley trust and Gresham professor for public understanding of psychiatry.