It sounds like the kind of questionable "fact" that kids love to throw around at the lunchroom table: The first letter of your name can determine how long you live. Sounds farfetched, right? But a group of scientists at Wayne State University have published an article claiming that your longevity is, in fact, linked to your name. And the very worst initial to have? The dreaded "D."

The researchers looked at the first letters of the names of more than 10,000 pro athletes such as hockey, baseball, basketball, and football players, and recorded how old they were when they died. Then they analyzed lawyers and various types of doctors to determine if the initial-longevity association held for that group. The result? In the athlete group, those whose first names began with A lived longer than those whose names began with B, and so on until D, which had the shortest life span. Those whose first names began with the letters E through Z lived longer than those whose names began with D. In the doctor-lawyer group, those whose names began with E through Z also lived longer than those whose names began with D, although the association was not significant in this case.

Why is there an apparent correlation between your initial and the length of your life? According to Dr. Ernest Abel, one of the study's authors, the connection begins when you start getting letter grades in school, where you learn that D is something to be reviled. "A is the highest and D is the lowest," he says. "You go through school learning the symbolic significance of A, B, C, and D. Kids also learn their 'ABCs,' but there's no D." Dr. Abel maintains that D's negative associations can be carried through the childhood years, even into college and beyond. "Students with A and B names have higher GPAs than those starting with C and D," he says. "And there are more people with A and B names in first-tier law schools." The outcome? Feeling negative about your first initial can mean feeling negative about yourself, even subconsciously. And since our mental health is tied to our physical health, the beating our self-esteem takes when we're saddled with C or even  names can translate into a shorter life.

While there isn't much you can do about your name short of going to city hall to change it, there is plenty you can do to keep the quality of your life high and live as long as possible no matter what you're called. And that goes for all those Cs, Ds, Es, Fs, and even Zs. Take that, Death.


Dr. Ernest Abel, Wayne State University, Michigan.