03 September 2007

Rock stars more likely to die

In an innovative study, researchers charted the survival rates of 1 064 musicians and compared this to mortality among the general population in North America and Europe.

Here are a couple of career tips for anyone who wants to be a rock star yet also avoid the price of fame - fatal overdoses, binge boozing, car wrecks, suicide - that go with it.

Try to survive beyond the first five years after your first big hit.

Oh, and try to be a Brit, too.

That way, the chances of joining Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Elton John in qualifying for your pensioner's bus pass rise hugely.

In an innovative study published in Britain's Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (JECH), researchers at Liverpool John Moores University charted the survival rates of 1 064 musicians and compared this to mortality among the general population in North America and Europe.

The musicians were picked from a chart called the All Time Top 1 000 Albums that was selected in 2000, and covered rock, pop, New Age, punk, rap, R&B and electronica.

In all, exactly 100 stars died between 1956 and 2005 (a death rate of 7.3% among women and 9.6% among men), including such luminaries as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Keith Moon, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin and Kurt Kobain.

Stars prone to premature death
Over a 25-year span that started with their rise to fame, stars were more than 70% likelier to die prematurely compared with the general population - and the risk was 240% higher in those crucial first five years.

And for those who achieved fame in the manic years of the Sixties and Seventies, the risk of death occurring within the first five years was an astonishing 350% higher than for Mr. or Ms. Average.

European stars were much likelier to survive compared to their North American counterparts, the study also found.

Those Europeans who died tended to expire in a blaze of youthful glory, at an average age of 35, compared to 42 among the North Americans.

As time went by, though, ageing North American rock stars were twice as likely to die prematurely than Europeans, according to the authors, who speculate that the lifestyle of US rockers may make them more susceptible to chronic heart disease.

Useful statistical data
The study, lead-authored by Mark Bellis and John Ashton of the university's Centre for Public Health, says their work adds useful statistical weight to a well-known but anecdotal phenomenon.

Another point, they say, is that public-health advocates should think twice before enrolling a music star to promote positive health messages, if teens link their idol with booze and pills.

"Where pop star behaviour remains typified by risk-taking substance abuse, it is unlikely that young people will see any positive health messages they champion as credible," the paper warns. - (Sapa)

Read more:
Aching to be a rockstar?


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