Last week saw the execution of Chinese millionaire Liu Han. He was the president of Hanlong, a mining company that seemed to borrow their mission statement from Corleone Family, what with being involved in government corruption, weapons smuggling, murder, and dabbling a but of mining here and there.

He was also at one time named the 148th richest person in China according to Forbes Magazine. At the time of his death, this fact had inspired media in Chinese to conduct a millionaire mortality study which claims that the average age of death for a Chinese millionaire is a startlingly young 48 years old.

The results were reported by Japanese site Iza Sankei Digital, which doesn’t specifically say which media outlet came up with the figures and how. They do, however, state that between 2003 and 2011, 72 millionaires had perished. Among them, 15 were murdered, 14 executed, 17 committed suicide, and 19 were victims of illness.

The average age of death for these people was 48, which coincidentally was the age of Liu Han when he was executed last wek. The media ran with this fact saying the being rich was a “high risk lifestyle.” Of course, like with any statistic, there’s usually more going on beneath the surface.

First we should consider the number of millionaires in China. The Japanese source actually uses the term daifugo, which loosely means a “really rich person” as opposed to a fugo or simply “rich person.” Well give the study the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re talking about Ultra-High-Net-Worth (UHNW) individuals having a net worth of over US$15.8 million.

Business Insider reports that in 2012 there were 63,500 of these people, revealing that despite the 72 who died in the past decade a whopping 99.89 percent of UHNW people were still alive and relatively well. So, why are the ones who die doing it so young?

▼ BI also reveals that 5 percent of wealthy pet owners have chinchillas

The answer to that lies in the fact that this crop of multimillionaires is a rather new development in China and the number has been growing rapidly. According to the same BI report, the average age of a UHNW person is 41. This may fly in the face of our ingrained image of a crusty old tuxedo-wearing tycoon charging us 10 bucks for a stay his green house on Mediterranean Avenue and winning second place in beauty pageants.

So in conclusion, the reason the average age of dead rich people in China is so low is that there simply aren’t that many old rich people yet. That’s not to say that the shocking statistic reported in the Chinese media is flat-out wrong. It’s just too early to tell.

Source: Business Insider, The Irish Times, BCG Perspectives (English), Iza Sankei Digital via Zaeega (Japanese)
Top Image: Wikipedia – Elyyo
Inset Image: Business Insider