Conflict of interest: P. de Leeuw is editor-in-chief of the Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde (Dutch Journal of Medicine). Financial support: none declared.
Many people are inclined to believe that popular music artists are prone to die prematurely. Scientific research into this matter is scarce.
There is only one epidemiological study on this subject, showing that mortality among pop stars during the first 25 years after they became famous is increased. This mortality is higher in Northern America than it is in Europe, but European pop stars die on average at an earlier age.
A fairly common belief states that many pop stars die at the age of 27 years. This age has even been proclaimed as the most critical for modern musicians. However, data of several hundred deceased pop stars shows no evidence for increased mortality at the age of 27. Moreover, the data suggests that the age of death has increased over the past forty years.
As far as the cause of death is concerned, overdose of drugs or alcohol rank highly next to cardiovascular disease and malignancy.