A shortened life: Is it the price of fame? Research suggests performers die young

Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning in July 2011, aged 27 Photo: Lewis Whyld/PA Archive

The price of fame may be a shortened life, as actors, singers, musicians, dancers, and athletes tend to die earlier than counterparts in other walks of life, scientists found.

Experts said performers are more likely to have vices such as smoking, drinking or taking illicit drugs, which could be contributing factors.

Actor Heath Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in 2008, aged 28 Credit: Yui Mok/PA Archive

They said findings should act as a warning to celebrity obsessed youngsters.

Australian researchers uncovered the trend after studying the obituary columns of the New York Times, which only include the names of the rich, successful and famous.

Marilyn Monroe died in 1962, aged 36, there are many conspiracies surrounding her death which was ruled to be "acute barbiturate poisoning" Credit: PA

Analysis of 1,000 obituaries showed that younger deaths were more common among those whose lives had been devoted to the performing arts and sport.

Performers, both sporting and artistic, had an average age at death of 77.2, compared with 78.5 for creative non-performers.

Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994, aged 27 Credit: Reuters

Among professionals and academics, people in business, military and political careers, significantly older ages at death were seen.

According to the survey published online in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, an examination of causes of death showed that shorter lives were associated with accidents, infections and certain cancers.

Music legend John Lennon was shot by fan Mark Chapman in 1980, he was 40 years old

Lead author Professor Richard Epstein, from The Kinghorn Cancer Centre at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, said that a one off analysis "can't prove anything", but does "raise interesting questions".

First, if it is true that successful performers and sports players tend to enjoy shorter lives, does this imply that fame at younger ages predisposes to poor health behaviours in later life after success has faded?

Or that psychological and family pressures favouring unusually high public achievement lead to self-destructive tendencies throughout life?

Or that risk-taking personality traits maximise one's chances of success, with the use of cigarettes, alcohol or illicit drugs improving one's performance output in the short term?

Any of these hypotheses could be viewed as a health warning to young people aspiring to become stars.

– Professor Richard Epstein, lead author