Researchers from Queensland University of Technology found that while fame – and unhealthy lifestyles – did increase the risk of premature death for musicians, there is no “spike” aged 27.
When Amy Winehouse died earlier this year at the age of 27, she joined a group of high-profile rockers who shared her taste for hard living, all of whom died at the same age – the “27 club”.
Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison of The Doors and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones all died aged 27.
It’s led some to speculate that there is some reason that the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle tends to take its toll on musicians when they hit 27.
Kurt Cobain also commited suicide at the same age.
Musicians in their 20’s and 30’s are two to three times more likely to die than the general population – but the deaths of so many famous musicians at that exact age is just a coincidence.
Lead researcher on the project, Associate Professor Adrian Barnett from the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) said: “In order to test the <<27 club>> hypothesis, we compared the deaths of famous musicians to the general UK population.”
“We included 1,046 musicians (solo artists and band members) who had a number one album in the UK charts between 1956 and 2007.
“During this period 71 (7%) of the musicians died.
“Our sample included crooners, heavy metal stars, rock ‘n’ rollers and even Muppets (the actors, not the puppets) and this all added up to 21,750 musician years.”
Prof. Adrian Barnett said the research team used mathematical analysis to determine the significance of age 27.
“We found no peak in the risk of death at this age, however, musicians in their 20s and 30s were two to three times more likely to die prematurely than the general UK population,” he said.
“Our research also found some evidence of a cluster of deaths in those aged 20 to 40 in the 1970s and early 1980s.
“Interestingly, there were no deaths in this age group in the late 1980s and we speculate that this could be due to better treatments for heroin overdose, or the change in the music scene from the hard rock 1970s to the pop dominated 1980s.”
“The <<27 club>> is based on myth, but warn that musicians have a generally increased risk of dying throughout their 20s and 30s.”