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Solo Rock Stars Die Sooner Than Those in Bands

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Rock and pop stars with a successful solo career are about twice as likely to die early as those in famous bands, according to a new study.

The study also found that rock and pop stars who died of drug and alcohol abuse were more likely to have had a difficult or abusive childhood than those who died of other causes.

Researchers looked at nearly 1,500 North American and European rock and pop stars between 1956 and 2006 and found that about 9 percent of them died during that time. The average age of death was 45 for North American stars and 39 for European stars.

Performers included in the study included U.S. legend Elvis Presley and British singer Amy Winehouse.

The difference in life expectancy between rock and pop stars and the general population widened until 25 years after stars achieved fame. It was only then that the death rate among European stars, but not those from North America, began to be similar to that of the general population.

Successful solo performers were nearly twice as likely to die early as those in famous bands: nearly 10 percent vs. about 5.5 percent among Europeans and nearly 23 percent vs. about 10 percent among North Americans.

The study was published Dec. 19 in the journal BMJ Open.

The findings suggest that the support offered by band mates may help reduce the risk of early death, wrote Mark Bellis, a professor at the Center for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University in England, and colleagues.

The researchers also found that the risk of early death was lower among stars who achieved fame after 1980, according to a journal news release. Whether a star was male or female did not affect death rate, but ethnic background did, with nonwhites more likely to die early.

Nearly half of the pop and rock stars who died due to drugs, alcohol or violence had experienced at least one negative factor in their childhood, compared with about one-quarter of those who died of other causes.

Eighty percent of dead stars with more than one negative childhood factor died from substance abuse or violence. Negative childhood factors included physical, sexual or emotional abuse; living with a chronically depressed, suicidal or mentally or physically ill person; living with a substance abuser; having a close relative in prison; and coming from a broken home or one where there was domestic violence.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers advice about healthy living.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: BMJ Open, news release, Dec. 19, 2012

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