Age is just a number — not an omen.
Contrary to popular belief, chronology didn’t make famous musicians like Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain become “27 club” members – their fast lifestyles did, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.
Rock stars Winehouse, Hendrix, Cobain, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison all died at age 27. Following the recent death of Winehouse, theories began to swirl about the significance of them dying at that age.
But researchers at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia say fame likely increases the risk of death but the risk is not limited to age 27.
To test the theory, researchers, lead by Adrian Barnett, an associate professor in the School of Public Health, compared mortality rate of more than 1,000 famous musicians with that of the United Kingdom population. Musicians in the study included crooners, heavy metal bans, rock-n-rollers and even Muppets’ actors who had a number one album on the UK charts between 1956 and 2007.
During this period 71 of the musicians died.
A mathematical analysis revealed no spike in death at age 27 for famous musicians, but did show musicians in their 20s and 30s were two to three times as likely to meet an untimely death than the general population.
While research revealed a group of deaths of those between ages 20 and 40 in the 1970s and early 1980s, that age group came through the late 1980s unscathed. Researchers speculated the changing music environment and improved drug treatment might have been a factor.
Given the findings, researchers concluded “the 27 club” is a myth. However, they stress a famous musician’s risk of death rises during his or her 20s and 30s.
“This finding should be of international concern, as musicians contribute greatly to populations’ quality of life, so there is immense value in keeping them alive (and working) as long as possible,” Barnett said.