When is a rock musician considered a rock star

Why rock stars die earlier

Jimi Hendrix choked on his vomit in 1970 after consuming alcohol and sleeping pills, Kurt Cobain shot himself while on a heroin intoxication in 1994, and Amy Winehouse died in 2011 of alcohol intoxication after years of drug abuse. What all three musicians have in common are great talent, success, a tendency to excess - and the fact that they tragically passed away at the age of just 27. This makes them part of the myth of the »Club 27«, according to which exceptional musicians often die at the age of 27. That this is actually not the case has already been scientifically proven, among other things by a German-Australian study published in 2011 that examined the risk of death of pop and rock stars on the basis of the résumés of 1,046 music greats.

The fact is, however, that the life expectancy of successful musicians is significantly lower than that of their non-famous people and that they more often die young. The study mentioned at the beginning did not show a risk peak for the age of 27, but a death rate that was twice to three times higher than that of the normal population for the ages of 20 to the end of 30. Dianna Theadora Kenny, professor of psychology at the university, came to a similar conclusion of Sydney, which found that stars live an average of 25 years less than ordinary people.

This article is featured in Spectrum Compact, Success and Defeat

Young stars go wild

The reason for the poorer chances of survival of the music greats is their special lifestyle. "Especially when they are younger, stars often go wild," says the Göttingen psychology professor Borwin Bandelow, who in his book "Celebrities: From Difficult Happiness To Be Famous" took the biographies of celebrities and analyzed their behavior. In fact, they often have one party at a time, consume tons of alcohol and drugs, and constantly have sex with changing partners. In addition, some of them show (self) destructive tendencies by devastating hotel rooms, injuring themselves or others.

This "rock 'n' roll way of life" culminates in some celebrities in tragic unintentional or, as with Kurt Cobain, even in deliberate death. How much this lifestyle increases the risk of death is shown in a study published in 2012 by Researchers at the University of Liverpool who examined the phenomenon of early mortality among pop stars using the life and death data of 1,489 musicians: Of the 137 recorded deaths, 42 were due to drug and alcohol abuse. And the remainder could also be caused by causes such as suicide (4th ), Violence (7), accidents (19) and heart disease (21) can certainly be the result of a risky way of life.

There are various theories as to why stars love excess. The most common is that fame is a burden that some cannot take. »On the surface, fame is very positive: it brings recognition, increases self-esteem and brings feelings of happiness. But being famous also has its downsides, ”explains Harald Gündel, Medical Director of the Clinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy in Ulm. For example, there is immense pressure to be constantly in the public eye and to be measured against an ideal that is often not chosen by oneself. "Especially with very ambitious and sensitive characters, this can trigger stress and fear of failure." There are also other possible negative effects, such as the breaking of friendships and a resulting feeling of loneliness or ridicule and defeat that hurt and wear down. This can hit the psyche and, according to Gündel, sometimes also lead to the stars living so excessively precisely because they want to numb negative emotions and reduce the pressure on them.

It depends on character and psyche

However, experts consider it questionable that fame and its side effects alone ensure that someone lives violently and dies early. It is more likely that additional stress factors will have to be added. One of the most important determinants of whether or not a star develops a risky lifestyle is their character and mental state. "Someone with a steady, stable personality structure who comes from a stable and supportive environment can withstand the stresses of fame better than a rather unstable personality with negative psychosocial characteristics," says Gündel. Thus, he runs less risk of "going nuts" and developing unhealthy behavior.