Study: Solo stars at higher death risk than bands
Bellis said factors contributing to the difference could include longer careers — and thus longer exposure to rock 'n' roll excess — in the U.S., a huge, populous country with greater opportunities for aging stars to stay on the road. Europe's stronger social safety net and socialized medicine may also play a role, he said.
The research, which updates a 2007 study by the same team, was published in the online journal BMJ Open.
The study suggests the infamous rock 'n' roll lifestyle may not be entirely to blame for rock stars' death risk.
The researchers looked for the first time at the role of "adverse childhood experiences" — such as physical or sexual abuse — on stars' later behavior.
They found that performers who had had at least one adverse childhood experience were more likely to die from drug and alcohol use or "risk-related causes."
"Substance abuse and risk-taking in stars are largely discussed in terms of hedonism, music industry culture, responses to the pressures of fame or even part of the creative process," the researchers said.
However, they said, "adverse experiences in early life may leave some predisposed to health-damaging behaviors, with fame and extreme wealth providing greater opportunities to engage in risk-taking."
But Ellis Cashmore, a cultural studies professor at Staffordshire University and author of the book "Celebrity/Culture," said it would be wrong to overlook "artistic frustration" as a factor in artistic self-destruction.
He said troubled artists from Vincent Van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway to the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson all illustrate "the torment that creativity brings with it."
"Perhaps it is the continual striving for some sort of unattainable artistic perfection that drives them," he said.
Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless