Ever thought why famous musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Sid Vicious and Kurt Cobain died so young? Well, a comprehensive study of musicians' mortality has researchers believing that they have found the answer.
Researchers at the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University have shown that rock and pop stars are more than twice as likely to die an early death as the rest of the population.
The study, led by researcher Mark Bellis, is based on 1,064 North American and European musicians and singers who shot to fame between 1956 and 1999. The team examined how long these stars survived once they'd achieved chart success and compared this with longevity of the general population, matched for age, sex, ethnicity and nationality.
Of the 100 of those performers who died between 1956 and 2005, the average age of death was 42 years for North American stars and 35 for European. And most died within a few years of becoming famous.
The experts found that the causes of death varied from accidental to suicide and murder. However, the biggest killer was long-term drug or alcohol abuse, which accounted for more than one in four of the deaths.
Between three and 25 years after becoming famous, pop stars were found to be 1.7 times more likely to die. Twenty years after first achieving chart success, 10 per cent of US stars and four per cent of those in Europe were dead, which is twice the normal rate.
The researchers also noted that thousands of young fans, who aspire to make it big might suffer as a result of following their role models.
"Public health consideration needs to be given to preventing music icons promoting health-damaging behaviour amongst their emulators and fans," say the authors.
The experts suggested that stars could do more to actively promote positive health messages, but these need to be backed up by example.
"Where pop star behaviour remains typified by risk taking and substance use, it is unlikely that young people will see any positive health messages they champion as credible," the authors say.
The study is published ahead of print in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.