Racial disparities in mortality among American film celebrities: A wikipedia-based retrospective cohort study

Hannah Speaks, Alyssa Falise, Kaitlin Grosgebauer, Dustin Duncan, Adam Carrico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: In the United States, well-documented racial disparities in health outcomes are frequently attributed to racial bias and socioeconomic inequalities. However, it remains unknown whether racial disparities in mortality persist among those with higher socioeconomic status (SES) and occupational prestige. Objective: As the celebrity population is generally characterized by high levels of SES and occupational prestige, this study aimed to examine survival differences between black and white film celebrities. Methods: Using a Web-based, open-source encyclopedia (ie, Wikipedia), data for 5829 entries of randomly selected American film actors and actresses born between 1900 and 2000 were extracted. A Kaplan-Meier survival curve was conducted using 4356 entries to compare the difference in survival by race. A Cox semiparametric regression analysis examined whether adjusting for year of birth, gender, and cause of death influenced differences in survival by race. Results: Most celebrities were non-Hispanic white (3847/4352, 88.4%), male (3565/4352, 81.9%), and born in the United States (4187/4352, 96.2%). Mean age at death for black celebrities (64.1; 95% CI 60.6-67.5 years) was 6.4 years shorter than that for white celebrities (70.5; 95% CI 69.6-71.4 years; P<.001). Black celebrities had a faster all-cause mortality rate using Kaplan-Meier survival function estimates and a log-rank test. However, in a Cox semiparametric regression, there was no longer a significant difference in survival times between black and white celebrities (hazard ratio 1.07; 95% CI 0.87-1.31). Conclusions: There is some evidence that racial disparities in all-cause mortality may persist at higher levels of SES, but this association was no longer significant in adjusted analyses. Further research is needed to examine if racial disparities in mortality are diminished at higher levels of SES among more representative populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13871
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Continental population groups
  • Internet
  • Mortality
  • Race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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