Musical Life Expectancy

Over 20 years ago, a study was published about the life expectancy of saxophone players. It found that playing saxophone correlated positively with a significantly shorter life expectancy, and suggested that it might be caused by circular breathing and posture – but the data just showed correlation.  Of course, regardless of the quality of statistical data, causation is inferred.

A 2015 article from the Conversation showed differing life expectancies for different styles of music.  The graph was impressive:

It looks like jazz and blues are the healthiest genres, while Rap musicians tend to die young.  Still, the graph misses an important element – time.  Rap and Hip Hop started in the seventies, while Blues started a century earlier, and Jazz wasn’t far behind.   The data are skewed, and it isn’t surprising that Blues musicians have lived longer than Rap musicians.  It’s hard to be an old dead musician in the newest genre.

Music and Longevity (2014) looks at the mean age at death of nearly 9,000 musicians, and concludes that harpists live longer (average 80.9) and guitarists have the shortest life expectancies (54.4).  Still, looking at the data, Zharinov and Anisimov included 32 harpists and only 9 guitarists. 

I know a lot more guitar players than harpists, so either the sample is skewed or Keith Richards longevity is normal for guitarists. 

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