Researchers Richard Epstein and Catherine Epstein said the
study, based on analysing 1 000 New York Times obituaries from 2009-2011, found
film, music, stage performers and sports people died at an average age of 77.2
This compared to an average lifespan of 78.5 years for
creative workers, 81.7 for professionals and academics, and 83 years for people
in business, military and political careers. The Australian-based researchers
said these earlier deaths could indicate that performers and sports stars took
more risks in life, either to reach their goals or as a result of their
expectancy with fame
"Fame and achievement in performance-related careers
may be earned at the cost of a shorter life expectancy," the researchers
wrote in their study published in QJM: An International Journal of
Medicine."In such careers, smoking and other risk behaviours may be either
causes or effects of success and/or early death."
Britain's most high-profile celebrity publicist, Max
Clifford, said the pressure that celebrities and sports stars put on themselves
to succeed had to play a part, and even at the top they were always worried
about who could replace them."People assume that fame and success is all
about riches and happiness but as someone who has worked with famous people for
45 years I know that is not the case," Clifford said.
"The success becomes like a drug to them that they have
to have and they are always worried about losing it so they push and push and
work harder and harder. You have to be competitive in these fields otherwise it
will not work."
Warning to aspiring
For the study the researchers separated the obituaries by
gender, age and cause of death, as well as by occupation, with anyone involved
in sports, acting, singing, music or dance put into a performance category. Others
were split into creative roles such as writing and visual arts, into a
business, military and political category, or a group of professional, academic
and religious careers.
The study found that the list was heavily skewed towards men
who accounted for 813 of the obituaries and the main causes of earlier deaths
were linked to accidents, infections including HIV, and cancer. Lung cancer
deaths - which the authors considered a sign of chronic smoking - were most
common in performers.
Richard Epstein, a director at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre at
Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital, acknowledged that the one-off analysis could
not prove anything but raised interesting questions."If it is true that
successful performers and sports players tend to enjoy shorter lives, does this
imply that fame at younger ages predisposes to poor health behaviours in later
life after success has faded?" he said.
He suggested maybe psychological and family pressures favouring high public achievement could lead to self-destructive tendencies or
that risk-taking personality traits maximised the chances of success, with the
use of cigarettes, alcohol or illicit drugs improving performance output in the
short-term."Any of these hypotheses could be viewed as a health warning to
young people aspiring to become stars," he said.