Musicians in solo acts are more likely to die than their peers in bands, a new study reports.They found that solo performers (such as Amy Winehouse), were around twice as likely to die early as those in a band (like the Rolling Stones), irrespective of whether they were European (9.8 per cent vs 5.4 per cent) or North American (22.8 per cent vs 10.2 per cent).
The peer support that comes from bandmates seems to protect the musician from self-destruction with drugs or alcohol.
The study was published in the journal BMJ Open, an open access journal run by the British Medical Association. A press release from the journal has the details:
The authors included 1489 North American and European rock and pop stars over a 50 year period between 1956 (Elvis Presley) and 2006 (Regina Spektor, The Arctic Monkeys, and Snow Patrol).
Their achievements were determined from international polls and top 40 chart successes, while details of their personal lives/childhoods were drawn from a range of music and official websites, published biographies, and anthologies.
During the 50 year period, 137 (9.2%) famous rock/pop stars died. The average age of death was 45 for North American stars and 39 for those from Europe.
The gap in life expectancy between rock and pop stars and the general population widened consistently until 25 years after fame had been achieved, after which death rates began to approach those of the general population—but only for European stars.
They also found that those who had drug and alcohol abuse problems were more likely to have suffered a difficult or abusive childhood than those who died of other causes. These childhood traumas include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; living with a chronically depressed, suicidal, mentally or physically ill person; living with a substance abuser; having a close relative in prison; and coming from a broken home or one in which domestic violence featured.
Four out of five dead stars who had more than one unfavourable childhood factor eventually died from substance misuse or violence-related causes, the release says.
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