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Pop and rock stars are twice as likely to die young than the rest of the population, a new study of the lives of the 20th century's biggest stars shows.

Analysis of the lives of more than 1,050 North American and European musicians and singers who shot to fame between 1956 and 1999 showed that they were also more likely to die within five years of becoming famous.

Included in the list of tragic stars are Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Buckley and Sid Vicious.

Long term drug and alcohol problems were responsible for a quarter of the deaths.

On average North American stars did not make it beyond the age of 42 while European stars were at even greater risk, dying at an average of 35.

European rockers who decide to retire to a more relaxing pace of life were found to return to the same levels of life expectancy as the rest of the population 25 years after achieving fame.

Writing in the online version of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the researchers argue that their findings show the music industry needs to take the health risks of substance abuse more seriously.

Last week the father-in-law of British singer Amy Winehouse, who is reported to be struggling with drink and drugs problems, suggested that people boycott her records to send a message to her and her record label to seek help.

"Public health consideration needs to be given to preventing music icons promoting health-damaging behaviour amongst their emulators and fans," the researchers argue.

And stars who promote positive health messages need to ensure they are backed up by example, they add.

"Where pop star behaviour remains typified by risk taking and substance use, it is unlikely that young people will see any positive health messages they champion as credible," the researchers conclude.

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