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Why oh why do rock stars die young?

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Liverpool John Moores University has evidently opened its own department of the bleedin' obvious by revealing that rock and pop stars often die prematurely because of their penchant for a fast-track lifestyle fuelled by drugs and booze, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The uni's study of 1,050 US and European artists discovered they are twice as likely to die early than the rest of the population. Specifically, "100 stars died between 1956 and 2005 with US stars dying at 42 on average and those from Europe at 35"*. Drink and narcotics accounted for a quarter of all celebrity clog-poppings.

The Telegraph cites some famous examples of substance-driven oblivion, including Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. Tupac Shakur also merits a mention for not living long enough to drink and drug himself into the grave, since he was shot four times at the tender age of 25.

NME's news editor Paul Stokes explained: "The problem is that rock stars often spend the first years of their careers struggling to get by and then get everything really quickly. There is no control mechanism and with a culture which often lauds excessive behaviour that spells problems."

Researchers said their findings "should be looked at seriously by the music industry". The music industry responded with a BPI statement declaring: "A very small minority do encounter problems, which due to their fame and success are played out in the media and given a greater prominence than those of young people in other walks of life. Record labels always seek to support the minority of artists who experience difficulties of this kind."

The latest talent to succumb to "excessive behaviour" is, of course, Amy Winehouse - hardly a shining example for the "one in 10 children in the UK aspiring to be a pop star", according to the researchers.

Head researcher, professor Mark Bellis, commented: "Public health consideration needs to be given to preventing music icons promoting health-damaging behaviour among their emulators and fans. Stars could do more to actively promote positive health messages, but these need to be backed up by example." ®

Bootnote

*Given that this is the European average, we suspect the actual figure would be considerably lower if researchers had not added the Rolling Stones' combined ages (roughly 540 years, by our reckoning) into the equation.

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