It hasn’t exactly been a banner year for Death.
Prince, Bowie, Ali … these are guys who were supposed to live forever. Or at least, you know, until they were older and greyer and more curmudgeonly.
But given their lifestyles and fast-living ways, should we have seen it coming?
A recent search through Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest artists of all time shows that reaching a high level of fame in the music arena comes with the ultimate price tag: an average life expectancy of 49, a full 30 years short of the overall average in America, and dead even with Chad, the country with the lowest life expectancy in the world.
Expand the scope beyond the top 100 and the picture is less gloomy, if only by a sliver: the life expectancy of musicians in general appears to be closer to 56, with murder and suicide playing a significant role.
As for visible athletes like Ali? While it’s difficult finding reputable stats that apply specifically to boxing, one study suggests that athletes who engage in sports with a “high risk of body collision and high levels of physical contact” face an 11% increased risk of mortality.
Things aren’t as grim for elite athletes in other sports. While a lot of stories portend the early death of NFL players (which seems to be unfounded, other health and trauma issues aside), it turns out athletes tend to live pretty normal lives on average … save for wrestlers. According to FiveThirtyEight, the stress most pro athletes undergo is compensated by high income (and rich people live longer), a strict health regimen and good prospects following their career. Wrestling, on the other hand, is “reputed to have had a party culture, extensive performance-enhancing and recreational drug use, training focused on more aesthetic than functional physical improvements, a brutal schedule, and fewer monetary rewards than fans might think.”
As a whole, based on an analysis of 1,000 New York Times obituaries from 2009-2011, the average time on earth for all celebs and athletes is 77.2, just short of the national average. That’s not bad — especially when you consider drug use, infections and a higher risk of cancer tend to attend celebrity as well.
But what other, less visible jobs take a toll on the game of life?
The same study showed that those in other creative fields — advertising, journalism, design etc. — fair much better, with an average life expectancy of 78.5. Not surprisingly, academics and historians rank pretty high, too, with a ripe old average age of 82 years. That’s a lot of lectures. The shocker? High-ranking businessmen and politicians score the highest, at 83. Senior managers split the difference, at 82.5.
The moral of the story? A liberal arts degree piles on more than student loan debt, while an MBA might as well be the fountain of youth.
Oh, and don’t wrestle. Or sing in a metal band.
Main image via Northfoto/ Shutterstock