2016 Really Was An Awful Year For Celebrity Deaths. Here’s The Science To Prove It

2016 Really Was An Awful Year For Celebrity Deaths. Here’s The Science To Prove It
Image: Jason Crease/BBC

Many, many well-known people passed away last year. We know this. But did it just seem like a lot? Or was it a pretty standard year, and we were just paying more attention?

Someone has actually done an empirical study into if 2016 was, indeed, a dangerous year to be a celebrity, and this is what they found.

Jason Crease, who conducted the study, said he first needed to work out what is considered an “unusual” number of deaths, and what is considered a celebrity.

“For their analysis,” Crease said, “the BBC defined celebrities as those with a pre-prepared obituary. That is, a pre-written ready-to-run obituary. Given this definition, it certainly looks like an usually high number of prominent people died in 2016.”

Crease took into account the possibility of more celebrities pre-preparing obituaries, using a logarithmic trend. Based on this, he said “I’d expect 36.4 celebrities to die in 2016. 49 did.”

But Crease wasn’t okay with just using the BBC’s definition of celebrity, so he created his own mathematical formula. He then ranked them into exactly how well known they were.

A P200 is a “mega-celebrity” (like Fidel Castro, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael) and a P1000 is “celebrity” – “Just making it are Dom DeLuise and Jeff Hanneman,” Crease says.

Crease found that, according to his calculations, 12 P200 deaths should have occurred in 2016. There were 25, which Crease calls a “once-in-200-years event.” 78 P1000 deaths should have occured in 2016, but there were 99. “So again”, Crease says, “roughly a once-in-a-century event”.

You can read Crease’s full analysis here.