A recent study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health confirms the hazards of musical stardom. The study examined the lives of 1,064 successful musicians in the rock, punk, rap, R&B, electronica, and new age genres. All became famous between 1956 and 1999 and all had records that were included in a ‘Top 1000 records of all time’ list from 2000.
It found that the median age of death for North American celebrities was an unimpressive 41.78. Europeans do even worse, at just 35.18. All told, successful musicians are nearly twice as likely to die early as members of the normal population.
The regional breakdown by cause of death is also interesting:
Cause – % in the US – % in Europe
Suicide – 2.8% – 3.6%
Drug or alcohol overdose – 15.3% – 28.6%
Chronic drug or alcohol disorder – 9.7% – 3.6%
Drug or alcohol related accident – 2.8% – 7.1%
Cancer – 19.4% – 21.4%
Heart disease – 18.0% – 3.6%
Accidents – 13.9% – 21.4%
Violence – 6.9% – 3.6%
Other – 11.1% – 7.1%
The largest single discrepancy is the probability of dying of a drug overdose, but lots of other significant differences exist. Neither regional profile suggests that music is a healthy profession: at least for those at the top.
- Mark A Bellis, Tom Hennell, Clare Lushey, Karen Hughes, Karen Tocque, and John R Ashton. “Elvis to Eminem: quantifying the price of fame through early mortality of European and North American rock and pop stars.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. October 2007; 61: 896-901.