Is fame worth it?

Research suggests celebrities may have a shorter lifespan than those of the more obscure. Is it worth it?

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Looking at the perquisites afforded celebrities, it's natural perhaps to feel a twinge of envy. But here's the perennial question: is fame really all it's cracked up to be?

New research suggests one rather unenviable consequence of fame - at least for performers - may be a shorter lifespan than that enjoyed by the more obscure. Australian researchers studied 1,000 obituaries in the New York Times and found that celebrated rock stars, actresses, dancers and athletes had an average lifespan of 77.2 - compared with 78.5 for non-performing creative types. The study also showed that those with careers in business, politics and the military had much longer lives.

Everyone has heard of rock stars whose drug or alcohol habits kill them young. But can the difference - averaging 15 or 16 months of life - be attributed only to that? There's a lot more work for social scientists here: Does fame early in life prompt lifelong destructive tendencies? Does it provoke bad health choices even after the spotlight has moved on? Or is it that high-risk behaviours are likely to propel wannabes to stardom?

In our celebrity-fixated culture, all these hypotheses provide food for thought, about career choices and lifestyle and more.