Life expectancy and cause of death in popular musicians

Is the popular musician lifestyle the road to ruin?

Dianna T. Kenny*, Anthony Asher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Does a combination of lifestyle pressures and personality, as reflected in genre, lead to the early death of popular musicians? We explored overall mortality, cause of death, and changes in patterns of death over time and by music genre membership in popular musicians who died between 1950 and 2014. The death records of 13,195 popular musicians were coded for age and year of death, cause of death, gender, and music genre. Musician death statistics were compared with age-matched deaths in the US population using actuarial methods. Although the common perception is of a glamorous, free-wheeling lifestyle for this occupational group, the figures tell a very different story. Results showed that popular musicians have shortened life expectancy compared with comparable general populations. Results showed excess mortality from violent deaths (suicide, homicide, accidental death, including vehicular deaths and drug overdoses) and liver disease for each age group studied compared with population mortality patterns. These excess deaths were highest for the under-25-year age group and reduced chronologically thereafter. Overall mortality rates were twice as high compared with the population when averaged over the whole age range. Mortality impacts differed by music genre. In particular, excess suicides and liver-related disease were observed in country, metal, and rock musicians; excess homicides were observed in 6 of the 14 genres, in particular hip hop and rap musicians. For accidental death, actual deaths significantly exceeded expected deaths for country, folk, jazz, metal, pop, punk, and rock.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-44
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Problems of Performing Artists
Volume31
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes

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