May 25, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Now we know what Jack Nicholson’s smiling about. According to a new study by the University of Toronto, Academy Award winners live nearly four years longer (79.7 years) than their less-lauded peers (75.8 years). Those who win more than once — like quadruple victor Katharine Hepburn, 94 — live an average of six years more than nonwinners. ”It’s the self-esteem that occurs from achieving a major victory that nobody can take away from you,” says study coauthor Dr. Donald Redelmeier. ”The everyday stresses of life don’t drive you down.” Those who’ve enjoyed Oscar golden years include George Burns (The Sunshine Boys), who lived to 100, and Sir John Gielgud (Arthur), who reached 96. ”We’ve always thought winning an Oscar was cool — we didn’t know it was this cool,” says Academy rep John Pavlik. ”If I could win an Oscar, I’d be trying like crazy right now

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