So You Want to Be a Rock Star?

September 14, 2007 ( - While it may not be the kind of conclusion that demands actuarial acumen, a new study concludes that rock stars do indeed live fast and die young.

Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University, whose report appeared in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, studied a sample of North American and British rock and pop stars and, according to Reuters, concluded they are more than twice as likely to die a premature death as ordinary citizens of the same age.

The team looked across a wide variety of genres – considering 1,064 stars from the rock, punk, rap, R&B, electronic and new age genres in the “All Time Top 1,000” albums published in 2000, comparing each artist’s age at death with that of European and U.S. citizens of similar backgrounds, sex and ethnicity.

The report found that, between two and 25 years after the onset of fame, the risk of death was two to three times higher for music stars than for members of the general population matched for age, sex, nationality and ethnic background.

First Years Most Dangerous

The average age of death was 42 for North American stars (which included the likes of Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, and Jimi Hendrix) and 35 for European stars. In all, 100 of the stars considered had passed on – 7.3% of women and 9.6% of men. The first years of success were found to be the most dangerous – with both British and American musicians three times more likely to die than the average person during that time. Long-term drug or alcohol problems accounted for more than one in four of the deaths.

However, the elder statesmen of the genre – such as Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger – can take heart. The study found that after 25 years of fame, stars’ death rates began to return to normal – at least in Europe. A European star still living 25 years after achieving fame faces a similar mortality rate to the European public.

However, U.S. artists continue to die in greater numbers – a difference that the study said “might be explained by differences in longer-term experience of fame, with more performing in later years … continued media interest and associated stress and substance use in North American pop stars.”