NY Times - A new study confirms what music fans have long suspected: rock and pop musicians die prematurely more often than the general population.
The study also found that an early death is twice as likely for musicians with solo careers and that stars who die from substance abuse tend to have troubled childhoods. In addition, the survey found that musicians who reached stardom after 1980 have better survival rates. The same was true of older rock stars in Europe. In that group, musicians who survive for 25 years after becoming famous have the same death rate as the general population.
Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University in Britain studied the lives of 1,489 rock and pop stars who became famous between 1956 and 2006; of these, 137 had died. Over all, they discovered musicians suffered “higher levels of mortality than demographically matched individuals in the general population.”
Of those 137 deaths, for example, the median ages of death were 45.2 years for North American star musicians and 39.6 years for European star musicians. The results suggest that, over time, fame can be hazardous to a popular musician’s health, especially in North America. The researchers found the survival rate for rock and pop stars in North America was far below the general population’s rate and that gap became greater with each passing year. In Europe, the difference was significant but narrowed and disappeared entirely after a couple of decades of fame. Solo artists from North America had the worst survival rates.
But the authors of the study, led by Mark A. Bellis, said fame and hedonistic high living may not be the only factors in premature deaths of popular musicians. They found nearly half of the musicians whose deaths were linked to drug or alcohol use also had “adverse childhood experiences,” like sexual abuse, or violent or alcoholic parents.