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69 is the new 27 - why rock stars have a new milestone to fear

A rock and roll lifestyle has traditionally been perceived as having a 27 year cut-off point, but recent research shows that it's their late 60s that rock stars really need to worry about.

Author(s): Professor Les Mayhew - Cass Business School;

27 has long been the age to strike terror into the hearts of rock stars. It's the age that such luminaries as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse met their end through various forms of misadventure. However it seems that those who make it past the fateful age of 27 have a new milestone to fear. New research by Cass Business School Professor of Statistics, Les Mayhew, suggests rock stars who survive their twenties should beware the 69ish club.

Motorhead frontman Lemmy died shortly after Christmas 2015 following an adult lifetime of excessive alcohol and drug consumption. He had only recently turned 70. David Bowie and Alan Rickman passed away in January 2016, both at the age of 69. Bowie spent most of the 1970s indulging in monumental feats of cocaine consumption, and remained a heavy smoker up until his mid 50s, when he suffered a near fatal heart attack. Also in January, Glenn Frey of the American rock band The Eagles died following a long history of health problems linked with alcohol and drug abuse in his past. He was 67.

An analysis of 1,042 deceased musicians showed that 83% died before reaching the age of 70, where just 20% of the overall male population in the UK fail to make this milestone.

Rock stars between the ages of 25 and 29 are 25.5 times more likely to die than the national average, but if they survive this perilous period they are still twice as likely to die between the ages of 55 to 69 as the general population. This age band is where rock star deaths peak, two decades earlier than the general UK male population.

Cancer, drug overdose and excessive alcohol consumption are among the main causes of rock star expiry, but there are others that show up prominently in the research. Plane crashes account for 18 deaths in the 1,042 sample, and 45 musicians from the sample lost their lives in car crashes. This is well above the national average.

The rock star lifestyle still looms large as the main contributor to their reduced longevity. Those who survive the age of 27 may calm down over the years but many continue to smoke, with all the concomitant risks that poses, and for others the years of abstainance simply don't come early enough. There are some anomalies of course; Keith Richard's continuing existence confounds all known medical theory. However, for most rock stars the key to avoid falling at the most notorious of hurdles is the same for all of us: don't smoke, don't do drugs, only drink moderately, and eat healthily.

Professor Les Mayhew conducted this research on behalf of the Sunday Times. An article "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", based on the research, was published in January 2016.

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