Successful solo artists are twice as likely to die early as those in a bandResearchers claim soloists in Europe have a one in ten chance of premature deathSolo artists in America have a one in five chance of early death
Group members fare better possibly because of support from their band mates



12:45 GMT, 20 December 2012

British singer Amy Winehouse died in 2011 at the age of 27

British singer Amy Winehouse died in 2011 at the age of 27

Famous solo artists are twice as likely to die prematurely as stars in bands, according to researchers from the University of Liverpool.

The new research, published by online journal BMJ Open, suggests that solo performers in Europe have a one in ten chance of premature death – for American soloists the chance is one in five.

The situation is much less dire for band members and researchers believe this could be due to support offered by fellow band mates.

The researchers found that solo rock and pop artists from North America have a 22.8 per cent increased risk of dying prematurely compared with a 10.2 per cent increased risk for band members.

They said that European solo performers had a 9.8 per cent increased risk compared with a 5.4 per cent increased risk for band members.

The researchers raised the question of whether support offered by band mates may be protective.

‘Rock and pop star survival seems to relate to whether they have pursued successful solo careers,’ they wrote.

‘While this may simply be a proxy for level of fame, with solo performers often attracting more attention than, for instance, a drummer or keyboard player in a band, it also raises the issue of peer support as a protective factor.

‘Thus, further research should address whether bands provide a mutual support mechanism that offers protective health effects.’

Honey Langcaster-James, a psychologist who specialises in celebrity behaviour, also believes the support of a band may be protective.


Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning in 2007, aged 27

Whitney Houston died in February this year at the age of 48. She accidentally drowned in the bath due to effects of cocaine use and heart disease

Michael Jackson died in 2009 at the age of 50. He had a heart attack while acutely intoxicated on propofol and benzodiazepine

Jimi Hendrix died in 1970 at the age of 27. He is believed to have choked on his own vomit while on sedatives

She told the BBC: ‘Solo artists in general approach life in a solitary manner – deliberately choosing to go it alone.

‘They can find themselves in a situation where everyone around them are paid employees – the PR guru, their manger – all interested in them from a financial point of view and not in their personal needs – it's hard for the artist to know who to trust.

‘They travel a lot, are away from friends and family for long periods of time and only seen for their public image, not their real self – which can make them feel inferior, isolated and invalidated.'

She added that, even for the general population, psychology research has found that people with support have increased lifespan – and those in a band may benefit even more from this – they are all in the same boat.

In recent years there have been a number of high profile premature deaths among solo artists including Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson.

American singer Michael Jackson died at the age of 50 in 2009. Above, he arrives at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse in California, in 2005

Whitney Houston died in February this year at the age of 48. Above, she arrives at the 17th Carousel of Hope Ball in California in 2006

Both Michael Jackson (left) and Whitney Houston (right) died prematurely. Jackson died at the age of 50 and Houston at 48

The authors of the research examined data concerning 1,489 rock and pop stars who reached fame between 1956 and 2006.

these, 137 stars had died by the research cut-off point in February
2012. The average age of death was 45.2 for American stars and 39.6 for
the European artists.

The authors found that nearly half of those who died as a result of drugs, alcohol or violence had at least one adverse experience in their childhoods, compared with one in four of those dying of other causes.

‘Adverse experiences in early life may leave some predisposed to health-damaging behaviours, with fame and extreme wealth providing greater opportunities to engage in risk-taking,’ they said.

‘Millions of youths wish to emulate their icons. It is important they recognise that substance use and risk-taking may be rooted in childhood adversity rather than seeing them as symbols of success.’