Famous solo pop and rock music artists are twice as likely to die at an early age compared to famous artists belonging to a band, according to findings published in BMJ Open.
The researchers studied over 1,489 North American and European musicians who rose to fame between 1956 to 2006. The fifty year period covered artists such as Elvis Presley, all the way to recent rock groups such as Snow Patrol and The Arctic Monkeys.
Details of the musicians' accomplishments were analyzed by looking at their success on the music charts and using data gathered from international polls. The researchers also studied their biographies and information available online about their personal lives and childhoods.
the fifty years, 9.2% of the musicians died. North American stars died at an average age of 45 compared to European stars who died younger, at an age of 39.
The difference in life expectancy of rock stars compared to the general population remained significant until 25 years after the musicians had achieved fame, at which point the gap began to decrease slightly. A previous published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that the risk of death among musicians is at its highest within a few years of achieving fame.
North American and European musicians who didn't belong to a band were almost twice as likely to die younger than those who did. The authors claim that this may be due to the fact that a band offers it's members support during times of difficulty and stress.
The gender and age at which the stars became famous made little difference to their life expectancy. What did make a difference though was their ethnicity, with non-white stars on average dying at a younger age. In addition, those who became famous after the 80's were found to live slightly longer than stars who achieved fame before.
Adverse childhood experiences increases risk of early mortalityAlmost half of the stars who died due to substance abuse or violence had experienced at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE). These experiences include physical or sexual abuse, living with a drug addict or alcoholic, coming from a broken home with domestic violence, or living with a chronically depressed or mentally ill person. Almost 80 percent of stars who experienced more than one ACE died due to violence or substance abuse.
The authors note that although becoming a famous musician can be an escape for those with an unfortunate childhood, it also provides them with the ability to have easy access to dangerous substances which can unfortunately increase their risk of mortality.
"Pop/rock stars are among the most common role models for children, and surveys suggest that growing numbers aspire to pop stardom. A proliferation of TV talent shows and new opportunities created by the internet can make this dream appear more achievable than ever. It is important they [children] recognise that substance use and risk taking may be rooted in childhood adversity rather than seeing them as symbols of success."