Can Musical Genre Predict When & How A Musician Will Die?

It’s been a longstanding view that musicians are drug-abusers and drunks who live life very much on the edge, constantly on the road gaining very little sleep and even less sustenance as they chow down junk food, each of these elements working toward a premature end to their lives. 

Obviously, this is a little bit of “Nanna” and outdated notion, however a study published last year did cement that musicians do in fact have a shorter life expectancy than the general public.

Continuing on this dark yet interesting train of thought, a new study has emerged that compares the life expectancy of genders in music, as well as their genres and cause of death, providing some rather shocking findings.

Taken from, The Conversation, the average life expectancy of today’s musicians from a myriad of genres including blues, jazz, country, gospel, RandB/doo wop/soul, pop, folk, world music, rock, electronic/disco/funk, punk, metal, rap and hiphop have been examined, as well as main cause of their deaths, providing a very interesting and surprising insight into the demise of music artists.

The first chart plots genres over time, from the older sounds of blues and jazz across to newer kids on the block like rap and hiphop, comparing genre and gender against life expectancy for US males and females born in the same year.

Blues, jazz and country appear to have the longest life-span, around the 60 – 66 age mark, whilst the short-lived end of the spectrum is punk, metal, rap and hiphop suffering shockingly between 25 – 35.

It’s a rather close and intertwining trend between males and females, with men in country, doo wop, and soul on average said to live longer then their female counterparts, and surprisingly, this continues for electronic, funk disco, as well as punk, metal and even rap.

The ladies out-live men in blues and jazz, yet don’t take over until folk and world music, which shows the largest difference of the entire graph, with women musicians life expectancy falling below men for the entire remainder on the graph.

The study then explores the actual cause of these deaths next to each aforementioned genre, splitting these into five categories: accidental, suicide, homicide, heart-related and cancer.

Sadly, the highest cause of death in the examined musical types sees rap and hiphoppers die due to homicide at a shocking 51 per cent, this group however having one of the lowest scores for suicide, heart-related issues and cancer. Whether there’s a correlation between their lower life expectancy and causing a small figure for heart-related and cancer which is more frequent in older people hasn’t been made clear, but could well be a possibility.

Other bold statistics that stand-out from the summary shows that punk and metal musicians tend to die from accidents, and sadly, metal musicians are found to have the highest rate of suicide at 19.3 per cent whilst gospel and RandB artists sit at 0.9 and 1.6 per cent, respectively.

For blues and jazz artists, notably the two genres with the highest life expectancy level, are said to be met with the highest heart-related and cancer fatalities, yet both have very low levels of accident, suicide and homicide.

Of course, this is but one study on the life and death of different musicians, however it is a curious comparison. Take a deeper look at the statistics for yourself, are there any major surprises from The Conversation’s findings?


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