Who Knew? Rock and Roll Lifestyle Leads to Early Death

Study examines Why do so many pop musicians die young?

Study examines why do so many pop musicians die young?

One of the criticisms often leveled at psychology research is that it simply reaffirms what we already know.

At first glance this can often seem the case but examining new research more closely can often reveal new insight and prompt positive change.

Research recently published by Professor Dianna Kenny from the University of Sydney aimed to examine the age old question of ‘Why do so many pop musicians die young?’

Few studies have systematically examined the popular musician population to ascertain the extent of the problems codified in the media comments above.

Professor Kenny undertook a population study considering 12665 musicians from a variety of genres who died between 1950 and 2014.

The study examined four outcomes – longevity and the proportion of deaths by suicide, homicide and non-intentional injury or accident.

The research found results we might expect, demonstrated in the following graph:


As we can see from the graph the difference in these 3 causes of death between the general population and musicians is dramatic:

Across the seven decades studied, popular musicians’ lifespans were up to 25 years shorter than the comparable US population.

Accidental death rates were between five and 10 times greater.

Suicide rates were between two and seven times greater; and homicide rates were up to eight times greater than the US population.

Professor Kenny concludes that this is likely to be the case as the music scene fails to set boundaries of acceptable behaviour and quite often does the exact opposite:

it valorises outrageous behaviour and the acting out of aggressive, sexual and destructive impulses that most of us dare only live out in fantasy.

The research highlights the need for the music industry to recognise musicians in distress:

At the very least, those who make their livings from these young people need to learn to recognise early signs of emotional distress, crisis, depression and suicidality and to put some support systems in place to provide the necessary assistance and care.