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Musicians may not be at higher risk for dying at 27, study says

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December 20, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Although several prominent musicians have died at age 27, including Amy Winehouse, that age isn't especially risky, a study finds.
Although several prominent musicians have died at age 27, including Amy… (Frantzesco Kangaris / EPA )

Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones and Amy Winehouse all passed away at age 27, leading some to believe this is a particularly risky and unlucky age for musicians.

Not so, says a study that finds that the "27 Club," as it's been named, may just be a coincidence. Research debunking the theory was released Tuesday in the Christmas edition of the British Journal of Medicine, because apparently nothing says the holidays like studies about dead musicians.

To see if this 27 thing was actually a trend, researchers compared survival rates among 1,046 musicians, including solo artists and band members, who had a No. 1 album in the U.K. between 1956 and 2007, with the general U.K. population.

Rock 'n' rollers weren't the only ones included; the group also featured crooners, death metal stars, and Muppet actors.

During those years 71 musicians died, accounting for 7% of the study population. Researchers found that although three musicians did pass away at age 27, part of a pool of 522 musicians considered at risk, there was no definitive bump for deaths at that age.

However, they did find a collection of deaths among musicians age 20 to 40 that occured in the 1970s and early 1980s. The authors also noted that no deaths occured in that age group in the late 1980s; this, they said, could be because of improved treatments for heroin overdose or the fact that the music scene was shifting over from hard rock to pop.

Keep in mind the study was done among albums in the U.K. and didn't include Hendrix, Joplin and Jim Morrison because they didn't have a No. 1 U.K. album by the time they died. The researchers acknowledged that the outcome may be different in other countries.

"This finding should be of international concern," they wrote, "as musicians contribute greatly to populations' quality of life, so there is immense value in keeping them alive (and working) as long as possible."

Amen to that.

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