Like plenty of other people I was surprised by the number of celebrity deaths that seem to have happened in the early months of 2016. Particularly with a hero of mine, David Bowie in January
and then a few months later with Billy Paul
(and several other greats in between) it feels like the soundtrack of my youth has been decimated. I’ve avoided the subject as a topic for the blog for a number of reasons but mostly out of a feeling that these are very private matters. It has however played on my mind and I keep returning to thoughts of how often Cancer in general and Pancreatic Cancer specifically has played a part.
I did a little research and find that according to Cancer Research UK, You can see the info here, pancreatic cancer has a very poor outlook overall.
Of all adults with pancreatic cancer in England and Wales, around 20 in every 100 (20%) survive for 1 year or more after they are diagnosed. Almost 5 out of every 100 people diagnosed (5%) survive for 5 years or more. And only 1 out of every 100 (1%) will survive for 10 years or more after diagnosis. Pancreatic Cancer is also the only major Cancer where those 5 year mortality rates have not changed significantly in ten years. (Breast Cancer for instance has improved 5 year survival rates up from 50% to around 80%). Of course these are only statistics and averages but they reinforce my wishes to support Planets Charity to see what can be done to improve upon these. (which after all is a big part of the reason for this blog).
On the topic of statistics I found this on the BBC website where it seems they have at least got a theory about the spate of celebrity deaths.
according to the BBC’s obituary editor Nick Serpell, who ought to know about such things.
He said that the number of significant deaths this year has been “phenomenal”.
Looking at the basic statistics, there’s a very clear upward trend. Nick prepares obituaries for BBC television, radio and online, that run once a notable person’s death is confirmed.
The number of his obituaries used across BBC outlets in recent years has leaped considerably.
It’s a jump from only five between January and late March 2012 to a staggering 24 in the same period this year – an almost five-fold increase, according to research by the BBC Radio 4’s More or Less programme. And that’s before counting some of the notable deaths in April.
This all invites the question: why?
There are a few reasons, Nick Serpell says.
“People who started becoming famous in the 1960s are now entering their 70s and are starting to die,” he says.
“There are also more famous people than there used to be,” he says. “In my father or grandfather’s generation, the only famous people really were from cinema – there was no television.
“Then, if anybody wasn’t on TV, they weren’t famous.”
Many of those now dying belonged to the so-called baby-boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, that saw a huge growth in population. In the US for example, the census bureau said that 76m people in 2014 belonged to the baby boomer generation – some 23% of the population.
Here in the UK, people aged 65 or older make up almost 18% of the population – a 47% increase on forty years ago.
With more babies born into the baby-boom generation, it meant more went on to eventually become famous.
Now, those famous former babies, aged between 70 and 52, are dying.
The age-bracket 65 to 69 is the one, in England and Wales for example, where death rates really start to increase – some 14.2 per 1,000 men in that age bracket died in 2014, compared with 9.4 per 1,000 in the 60 to 64 age bracket.
Among the major deaths this year, many – including Prince (57), Alan Rickman (69), David Bowie (69) and Victoria Wood (62) – were baby-boomers.
So that seems to be the answer, it’s not really that more celebrities are dying this year it’s just that to quote David Bowie “The stars look very different today”.