`Being famous can shorten your life`

Last Updated: Apr 18, 2013, 19:44 PM IST

Melbourne: Being famous comes at a price! Having a glamorous career as a singer, actor or sports star may come at the cost of a shorter life, a new study has claimed.

Based on the premise that an obituary in the New York Times (NYT) usually implies success in one`s career, Australian researchers Richard Epstein and Catherine Epstein analysed 1000 consecutive obituaries published in the NYT during 2009-2011 in terms of gender, age, occupation, and cause of death.

"A one-off retrospective analysis like this can`t prove anything, but it raises some interesting questions," researchers at The Kinghorn Cancer Centre, St Vincent`s Hospital in Sydney, said.

They separated subjects into four broad occupational categories: performance or sport (including actors, singers, musicians, dancers, and sportsperson), non-performing creative (including writers, composers and visual artists), business or military or political, and professional or academic or religious.

The gender distribution of NYT obituaries was found to be strongly skewed towards males over females (813 vs 186), according to the study published in the journal QJM.

In terms of occupations, younger ages of death were apparent in performers or sportsperson (77.2) and creative workers (78.5), whereas older ages of death were seen in professionals or academics (81.7) and in business or military or political careers (83).

Moreover, although the life expectancy for a US citizen born today is about 76 years for males and 81 years for females, the average age of death for males was older (80.4), and females younger (78.8) than these averages.

This was associated with a higher proportion of females than males in performance or sports (38 per cent vs 18 per cent) and fewer in professional careers (12 per cent vs 27 per cent).

When the researchers looked at causes of death, they found that earlier deaths were associated with accidents, infections (including HIV) and certain cancers.

In general, cancer-related deaths were more frequent in performers (27 per cent) and creative workers (29 per cent), and somewhat less frequent in professional or academic (24 per cent), military or political (20.4 per cent), and sports careers (18 per cent).

More specifically, lung cancer deaths - which the researchers considered a likely indication of chronic smoking - were commonest in people whose career was performance-based (7.2 per cent), and least common among professionals or academics (1.4 per cent).