Live fast, die (a little bit) young(er)?
The song goes Fame, I wanna live forever. But a new study suggests seeking glory may have just the opposite effect.
Australian Researchers, perhaps because they’d gotten bored injecting lab mice with nicotine, analyzed newspaper obituaries and tallied up the average ages of death in various occupational categories.
It turns out that performers—singers, actors, musicians—died roughly two years earlier than creative people—writers, composers, painters, etc. Business types and politicians lived several years longer still. (How researchers divided “performers” from “creators”—which category would Elton John or Thelonious Monk fall into?—is a bit of a mystery to me, but whatever. Also no word if the political types went to the same hell as the others or had their own, nastier realm.)
The differences in lifespan were not enormous, and researchers admit they’re not sure if other factors contribute to the discrepancy. As someone in the article points out, it’s also not certain if the unhealthy aspects that are believed to cause the deaths come from early fame or from the lifestyles stars lead after their fame has vanished. But the scientists found that, for whatever reason, cancer, especially tumors in the lungs, were far more common for performers and celebrity-types.
Maybe they should go back to torturing mice…
Someone else also pointed out that since an infinitesimally-small percentage of the population is truly famous, it’s hard to make a lot out of such a non-representative statistic.
It’s hard to deny, though, that celebrities tend to have shorter lives, and that often the most intense, flaming, soaring celebs have the shortest. Somehow you just know Meryl Streep is going to live to be 100, but many others…mmmm, doubtful.
The study concludes more research is needed, which is what these things always conclude, because this is how these sorts of people make a living: by telling us they’re onto something really interesting, but they need more grant money to pursue it. Oh, and NASA is going to find life on Mars on that next mission. Honest.
But the work does seem to show that being in the public eye can be risky, while the behind-the-scenes types tend to live longer and be healthier to the end. Whether it’s nature or nurture—whether adrenaline-junkies choose these professions or the professions cause them to lose years—isn’t conclusively known. But the connection is hard to deny.
Lindsay Lohan, take note…
An article on this study can be found here.