Alex Steer

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Female artists and drug-related deaths: the numbers

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Just a quick post. I was sad to hear of the very early death of Amy Winehouse yesterday, and interested at the speculation it had prompted about dying young, and particularly drug overdoses, among musicians. (Note, the cause of death isn't confirmed at the moment.)

Impressively, National Statistics gets us pretty close to an answer with its Occupational Mortality in England and Wales series, and its datasheet on Occupational Mortality: Women Aged 16-59 for 1991-2001 [ZIP file, 2.6MB]

For the period 1991-2000, 13 women in literary and artistic professions in the England and Wales were recorded as having died from accidental poisoning by drugs. National Statistics puts the ratio of observed to expected deaths at 126, when standardized by age and social class. This is high: of the 188 occupations for which a ratio was provided, it ranks 13th highest. (Note that the nature of the 'accidental poisoning' is not specified.)

A further 2 women in literary and artistic professions in the England and Wales died from drug dependence, with an observed-to-expected ratio of 127.

In case you were wondering, the highest ratio of observed-to-expected deaths from accidental drug poisoning is among carpenters and joiners (927, but from a very very small sample of one death); the highest absolute number of deaths was among office workers and cashiers, at 136.

Note: I originally said 'in the UK' here a couple of times. I meant, of course, 'in England and Wales', and have corrected.

# Alex Steer (24/07/2011)