Fame Cuts Life Short, Longevity Study Finds

Thursday, 18 Apr 2013 03:53 PM

By Nick Tate

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Fame and accomplishment may take you far, from a career and money standpoint. But being a celebrity can also cut your life short, new research shows.
 
Australian researchers who tracked New York Times obituaries — typically written about those who achieved at least a modicum of fame in life — found well-known sports figures and performers in the arts tend to die earlier than those in other professions.

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The findings, published online in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, were based on an analysis of 1,000 obits published from 2009-2011. The researchers —Richard and Catherine Epstein, with the Clinical Informatics & Research Centre at The Kinghorn Cancer Centre in Sydney — tracked the individuals’ gender, age, occupation, and cause of death.

They also separated them into four broad occupational categories: performance and sports figures (actors, singers, musicians, dancers, and athletes); non-performing creative artists (writers, composers, and visual artists); business, military, and political leaders; and professional, academic, and religious figures.
 
The results showed those working as performers, athletes, and creative artists tended to die at much earlier ages than those in professional, academic, religious, business, military, and political careers. Many also tended to live shorter lives than the average American lifespan (76 years for males and 81 years for females).
 
Earlier deaths were associated with accidents, infections (including HIV), and certain cancers (such as lung cancer, most likely due to tobacco use), the researchers noted.

In general, cancer-related deaths were more frequent in performers (27 percent) and creative workers (29 percent), and somewhat less frequent in professional and academic figures (24 percent), military and political leaders (20.4 percent), and those in sports careers (18 percent). Lung cancer deaths were most common in people whose careers were performance-based (7.2 percent), and least common among professionals and academics (1.4 percent).
 
"A one-off retrospective analysis like this can't prove anything, but it raises some interesting questions,” the researchers said. “First, if it is true that successful performers and sports players tend to enjoy shorter lives, does this imply that fame at younger ages predisposes to poor health behaviors in later life after success has faded? Or that psychological and family pressures favoring unusually high public achievement lead to self-destructive tendencies throughout life?”
 
The researchers also suggested the findings could indicate fame may result from risk-taking personality traits that not only maximize the odds of success, but may also put them in danger. It’s also possible that celebrity increases the likelihood of using tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs.
 
“Any of these hypotheses could be viewed as a health warning to young people aspiring to become stars," the researchers said.

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