The study, to be published Thursday in the British Medical Journal, examined the lives and deaths of North American and European performers who achieved fame between 1956 and 2006. Jazz, folk and other nonmainstream artists were excluded, as were performers from other parts of the world. The study used acts’ first appearances on a Top 40 chart as proxies for the date they attained fame.
The performers were then compared with members of the general population with similar demographic characteristics. “Hence, Elvis Presley, whose first album was released in January 1956, was matched to the survival probabilities of the cohort of U.S. white men aged 21 in 1955,” the authors said. Forty years after attaining fame, North American pop stars were 87.6% as likely to be alive as normal people of the same age and ethnicity—the lowest survival rate of any group identified in the study.