Two British researchers who surveyed the causes of death among famous jazz musicians came to a surprising conclusion—playing the saxophone is bad for you (Unsafe sax: cohort study of the impact of too much sax on the mortality of famous jazz musicians. BMJ. 1999;319:1612–1613).
Musicians who played woodwind instruments in general faced a higher risk of death than those who played other types of instruments, but the highest risk was found in those who played the saxophone, said Sanjay Kinra, MD, a specialist registrar in Public Health Medicine for the South and West Devon Health Authority, Dartington, United Kingdom. He conducted the study with Mona Okasha.
Kinra and Okasha speculated that the breathing techniques used by those who play woodwinds may contribute to the high mortality found in these musicians. Typically, the woodwind musician inhales through the nose while inflating the cheeks and neck with air. Anecdotal reports of deaths by stroke contribute to this theory.
Musicians who played >1 instrument or who led the band seemed to have lower rates of mortality, even when they played the saxophone. If a health promotion campaign is designed for the jazz musician, Kinra and Okasha suggest that musicians who play the saxophone be persuaded to take up other instruments as well or, failing that, to start their own bands that they could lead.
Kinra and Okasha also recommend studying confounding factors, such as the smoky bars in which such musicians play. They said that attending jazz concerts around the world might solve the dilemma; they are looking for funding for the future study.
- Copyright © 2000 by American Heart Association