Solo pop stars more likely to die young than those in bands, says new study

Liverpool University research reveals average age of death for artists from Europe and North America

Solo pop stars are twice as likely to die young than those who perform in bands, a new study has revealed.

Students from Liverpool University looked at 1,489 musicians who reached fame between 1956 and 2006. Of these, 137 had died by 2012, and they discovered that a far higher number of these deaths were of solo performers, such as Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix.

Of the 137 dead musicians, the average age of death was 39 for artists from Europe and 45 for those from North America.

The study suggests that members of groups turn to their bandmates for support in times of need, while solo performers do not have that option. The findings, published in the journal BMJ Open, also found a link between artists who die young and problems in childhood.

Writing in the research paper, Prof Mark Bellis states: “Pop/rock stars are among the most common role models for children, and surveys suggest that growing numbers aspire to pop stardom. A proliferation of TV talent shows and new opportunities created by the internet can make this dream appear more achievable than ever. It is important that children recognise that substance use and risk-taking may be rooted in childhood adversity rather than seeing them as symbols of success.”

He added: “We think this is not specific to the rock and pop culture, but these people are responding to exactly the same childhood pressures as you would find on a deprived estate and many musicians come from that kind of background… Their accumulated millions of pounds are not capable of addressing these issues but may actually facilitate these behaviours by giving them access to drugs and alcohol.”