Study Links Fame To Early Death
April 18, 2013

Athletes And Stars Live Shorter Lives, Says New Study

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

While the new study in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine doesn´t establish a cause-and-effect relationship between fame and a greater risk of death, it does raise questions about the hazards of a rock and roll lifestyle.

"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 behaviors in later life after success has faded?” co-author Richard Epstein, an oncologist with St. Vincent´s Hospital in Sydney, said to BBC News. "Or that psychological and family pressures favoring unusually high public achievement lead to self-destructive tendencies throughout life?”

Based on a survey of 1,000 obituaries in the New York Times from 2009 to 2011, the researchers found that actors and professional athletes died at an average age of 77.2 years, compared to 83 years for people in business and military professions. The researchers based their study on the Times´ obituary section because appearing in it typically implies success in one's chosen field, whether in acting, business or politics.

The study also found an average life span of 78.5 years for non-performing creative workers and 81.7 years for academics listed in the Times obituary section.

The researchers also broke down the Times obituaries by gender. They found that men listed in the paper had a higher life expectancy about four years higher than the national average of 76. However, for women, New York Times post-mortem notoriety was associated with a lower life expectancy of a little less than three years below the national average of 81.

The authors suggested that the discrepancy is due to a greater ratio of women in the ℠performance´ categories than among the death notices for female professionals.

When looking at causes of death, the researchers found that earlier deaths were due in-part to accidents, infections and certain cancers. Performers and creative workers tended to suffer from the highest incidence of fatal cancers, at 27 and 29 percent respectively. Perhaps not surprisingly, sports professional suffered from the lowest incidence of fatal cancers at 18 percent. More specifically, lung cancer deaths were associated the most with performance-based individuals, at 7.2 percent, and the least with professionals or academics, at 1.4 percent.

In discussing the study with Reuters, UK celebrity publicist Max Clifford said that performers place a fantastic amount of pressure on themselves to succeed from day-to-day. He added that even those at the pinnacle of sports or performance arts must constantly worry about a younger, more talented replacement.

"People assume that fame and success is all about riches and happiness, but as someone who has worked with famous people for 45 years I know that is not the case," he said. "The success becomes like a drug to them that they have to have and they are always worried about losing it so they push and push and work harder and harder. You have to be competitive in these fields otherwise it will not work."