Pop stars: Ask not for whom the bell tolls, or who engineered this weird remix with all that bell; it tolls for thee. In a story perfectly timed for Halloween, when ghouls and goblins and pop psychology studies come out to play, the gnarled hand of science has pointed its bony finger at the pop star and gravely declared that they will die younger than everyone else. In fact, a new study finds that the pop star lives an average of 25 fewer years than the rest of the general American population—an extra quarter-century of ordinary, non-famous life they will simply never know while on their way to guaranteed immortality.
Dianna Kenny, a professor of psychology and music at the University of Sydney, studied more than 12,000 pop musicians who have died since 1950, the year the CIA definitely did not begin orchestrating their deaths as a means of sociological control. For her purposes, she writes, “pop” is a catchall covering all manner of musical genre—rock, hip-hop, country, Calypso, Christian, the notoriously live-fast-die-young world of polka—and their attendant casualties. And while she discovered that the fabled “27 Club” is a myth (save for the fact that it exists and several musicians are in it), she did discover that these “pop” stars do have shorter lives in general.
On average, a female pop star is likely to die around the age of 62; meanwhile, a male pop star is lucky to make it past 55. On the brighter side, these life expectancies are up significantly from 1990, a year when the peak of New Jack Swing caused untold numbers of deaths from embarrassment.
Here is a helpful chart that you can place in your favorite pop star’s dressing room if you’d like to be arrested.
Pop stars are also five to 10 times more likely to suffer accidental death, and two to seven times more likely to commit suicide. Nevertheless, both of those numbers are also trending downward overall: Accidental deaths peaked in the 1960s, when the planes were terrible and the drugs were terrific, while suicides were at their trendiest during the 1990s, obviously.
The reasoning behind all of this, Kenny argues: “The pop music ‘scene’ fails to provide boundaries and to model and expect acceptable behavior. It actually does the reverse—it valorizes outrageous behavior and the acting out of aggressive, sexual, and destructive impulses that most of us dare only live out in fantasy.” And all that living on the edge—having the courage to make real that which others can only dream about from the safety of their couches, too terrified are they to do anything but live a life of quiet desperation that ends not with a bang but with a stifled whimper—means pop stars are going to miss out on all the really great stuff that happens in their 70s. For example, lunch. Therefore, Kenny argues that “those who make their livings” off of young pop stars need to provide better support systems and squelch this sort of behavior early, so pop stars can be around for their august years, decades after anyone still thinks about them.
In a related study, Keith Richards and Lemmy Kilmister were found to be very old and having a kick-ass time.