2016 hasn’t been a good year to be a celebrity so far. British and international superstars left, right and centre have been shuffling off this mortal coil in quick succession. David Bowie, Terry Wogan, Alan Rickman, Ronny Corbett, Paul Daniels, Andy Newman, Victoria Wood, Craig Strickland, Glenn Frey, Rob Ford, The Prince and others, have all passed away in the last four months. We are left wondering: why are so many of our favourite personalities dying so suddenly? It’s a question that has had many of us scratching our heads, wondering whether there something sinister is going on.
Of course, it may be that we have been imagining this glut of celebrity sadness. Bad news sometimes comes in threes (or fours or fives) for no good reason. For example, JFK and C.S. Lewis both died on the same day, while Princess Diana and Mother Teresa passed away within a week of each other. A look at the numbers, however, reveals that we probably aren’t imagining this sudden increase: in the first four months of 2016 the BBC published twice as many obituaries for famous people as they did last year. And compared to 2012, the number of celebrity deaths looks to have increased four-fold.
Something in the weather, or the drinking water perhaps? Thankfully, we need not panic about a new deadly disease in the UK just yet, because a look to the Office for National Statistics reassures us that the number Britons who have passed away since Big Ben chimed twelve on December 31st is a perfectly normal amount. USA stats for the year so far are not yet available.
The reason for the recent celebrity deaths may be that their carefree lifestyle is starting to catch up on them. Addiction and over-indulgence often go hand-in-hand with fame, a fact that psychiatrists say can be explained by a celebrity’s yearning to recreate the buzz felt from being in the limelight. And statistics confirm that fame can take a heavy toll: metal rock stars have a 20 times high risk of suicide than normal, while pop musicians have a life-expectancy of just 59.
The real answer to this macabre mystery may not be due to celebs’ risky living, however. The true reason is probably a result of our TV viewing habits. Before the ‘idiot box’ made it into our living rooms in the late 1950s, the only megastars we knew were the ones we saw at the cinema. In the 1960s and 1970s, dozens of bright-eyed presenters and actors entered our homes – and we fell in love with them. Now as these stars are entering their 70s, many are starting to pass away. And as we welcome ever-more of celebrities into our lives, it’s a sad trend that looks set to continue.
So while time and tide waits for no man, we can learn from these stats that chasing after fame can be bad for your health. Wannabe rock stars should take note: think very seriously about your health before you next pick up your guitar. To enjoy a long and prosperous life, you might want to consider a safer alternative career as a gospel singer.