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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Is 27 Really a Dangerous Age for Musicians?

Famous singer, Amy Winehouse, died on 7/23/11 of alcohol poisoning. She was 27-years-old.

Famous singer, Kurt Kobain, committed suicide and died in 1994. He was 27-years-old.

Famous singer, Brian Jones, died from a drug and alcohol overdose. He was 27-years-old.

The list goes on and on.

Many famous singers have died at age 27 and belong to what has become known as The 27 Club, Club 27, the Curse of 27, or the Forever 27 Club. Other famous members include Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. So, is there a real risk associated with dying at age 27 (among musicians or the general population) or are these deaths just a coincidence? Could treatment programs for alcoholism anywhere have made a difference? A group of researchers (mostly statisticians) set out to answer the first question. The researchers studied all solo artists and band members between 1956 and 2007 who had a number one album in England. This led to 1046 musicians.

Of the musicians, 71 had died, which is 7%. About one musician died for every 200 musicians at age 27. However, near identical death rates were seen for musicians at age 25 and 32. There was no increased risk of death among musicians at age 27. However, musicians are more likely to die in their 20s and 30s compared to the general UK population, but that is likely due to lifestyle choices (e.g., drugs and alcohol). The latter is my own personal interpretation. However, the authors concluded that the 27 club is unlikely to be real and that an increased risk of early death among musicians is not limited to age 27. Another myth taken down by evidence-based data. The full article can be read here.

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