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Posted at 06:30 PM ET, 12/20/2011

‘27 Club’ myth doesn’t withstand scrutiny

Are famous musicians more likely than other people to die at age 27?

Apparently not. Not if they’re British, at least.

That’s the conclusion of a study posted Tuesday in the slightly offbeat Christmas issue of the online journal bmj.com. British researchers undertook to poke around at the premise behind the “27 Club,” a group whose members include rock luminaries such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and, most recently, Amy Winehouse, all of whom died when they were 27.

The researchers -- three statisticians and one health economist -- devised a study to determine whether musicians who had achieved success (as defined by their having had a number-one album on the British charts between 1956 and 2007) were more likely than the average person in that country to die at that particular age. Their sample included 1,046 musicians of all ilks and genres (among them, the authors note, several Muppets), 522 of whom were designated as being “at risk” for having achieved their success before turning 27.

All told, only three deaths at age 27 were noted among those 522 young musicians. The study did, however, find that the risk of death for famous musicians in their 20s and 30s was twice or three times higher than for folks in the general population.

The authors acknowledge that their study needs repeating in the U.S., where some of the better-known musicians in the 27 Club were from and where circumstances surrounding fame might contribute differently to risk of death than they do in Britain. The authors note that of the 43 musicians listed in the Wikipedia entry describing the 27 Club, their study only identified 3.

The authors recommend further research into this important matter. As they write in their conclusion, “This finding should be of international concern, as musicians contribute greatly to populations’ quality of life, so there is immense value in keeping them alive (and working) as long as possible.”

By  |  06:30 PM ET, 12/20/2011

 
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