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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Pop Stars More Likely to Die Young

Rock Stars, Pop Stars Have High Premature Death Rate; Drugs and Alcohol Often a Factor
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 4, 2007 -- "Live fast and die young" tends to be all too true for many rock stars and pop stars, according to a new British study.

The study shows that, starting three years after becoming famous, rock stars and pop stars are almost twice as likely as the general public to die prematurely.

Drugs and alcohol play a role in many famous musicians' premature deaths, the study also shows.

The researchers included Mark Bellis, BSc, PhD, DSc, FFPH, of the Centre for Public Health at England's Liverpool John Moores University.

Their report appears in the early online edition of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Pop Stars Die Younger

Bellis and colleagues tracked premature deaths among 1,064 North American and European rock star, pop stars, and other musicians who made their mark between 1956 and 1999.

The musicians' names came from the list of "All-Time Top 1,000" Albums," which were chosen by more than 200,000 people worldwide in 2000.

That list includes many musical genres, but only rock, punk, rap, rhythm and blues (R&B), electronica, and new age music are included in the premature death study.

Most of the rock stars and pop stars didn't die young, but 100 died prematurely.

Overall, rock and pop stars were 1.7 times more likely to die prematurely from their third to the 25th year of fame, compared to people of their generation. Drugs or alcohol were linked to more than a quarter of the musicians' premature deaths.

Why Pop Stars Die Younger

The premature death rate for music stars typically rose after a few years of fame.

The precise causes of those death aren't clear, but the researchers suggest that stress, falling out of popularity, and having easy access to alcohol and drugs may have been factors.

It's not clear whether fame was behind the premature deaths, or if troubled people gravitate to the music industry.

Lives might be saved by promoting a healthier lifestyle for rockers, rappers, pop stars, and other musicians -- and the researchers suggest that fans may follow along.

But pop stars must walk their talk about healthy lifestyles, or their fans will see right through the charade, warn Bellis and colleagues.

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