Sopranos live longer than altos

Hitting the high notes certainly helps in the concert hall, but being a soprano may also increase your lifespan, according to a recent study by doctors in Detroit.

Renee Fleming in China

The study compared the lifespans of 286 sopranos, mezzo-sopranos and altos born between 1850 and 1930. On average, the singers with higher voices lived five years longer than their lower-voiced counterparts.

Doctors Ernest Abel, Michael Kruger, and Kalyani Pandya also looked at 226 male singers from the same period. Even after comparing the higher voiced tenors with baritones and basses, the results were not statistically significant.

So what is it about sopranos that helps them live to a ripe old age? Apparently the presence of the female sex hormone, oestrogen, not only encourages development of the voice, it also provides health benefits which could lead to a longer life.

Male singers, even the highest of tenors, have less oestrogen than women and have a shorter lifespan as a result. High levels of testosterone did not shorten or lengthen a singer’s life.

The authors write: “The differences between female singers support the oestrogenic-protective hypothesis, whereas the absence of significant differences among males supports previous conclusions that testosterone does not shorten life expectancy in humans, although it has been found to have a modest effect on non-human male animals.”

Even if singing isn’t your strong point, the extra oestrogen produced by women without soprano voices may still be enough to provide health benefits. The life expectancy of men is, on average, two years shorter than that of women – whether you’re a singer or not.

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