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The Pink Cross Foundation, an anti-porn organisation, which seems to use this analysis by Rev. Daniel R. Jennings as a reference, says:

...the average life expectancy of a porn performer is only 36.2 years whereas the average life expectancy of an American is 78.6 years.

Is this true?

It seems likely that the sources are biased, but I couldn't find any reputable sites saying otherwise.

  • Welcome to Skeptics! Nice question. – Oddthinking Jun 14 '15 at 1:17
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    Have fun trying to control for lifestyle issues unrelated to acting in sexually explicit films. Popular media and alleged "tell all" books suggest that many (most?) people in the industry partake of other high risk activities. – dmckee Jun 14 '15 at 1:54
  • OK, before we proceed further: the claim has selection bias. Showing that it does not answer the question. Any answer to the question needs to have an estimate of both life expediencies at the very least. Of course, as @dmckee notes, there could still be confounding factors which need to be taken into account. – Sklivvz Jun 15 '15 at 16:00
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    A kind, but firm, reminder: Please do not post tentative answers in the comments. Comments are meant to improve the question and not answer it. – Sklivvz Jun 15 '15 at 16:02
  • @Sklivvz Given the same claim, if the OP had asked, "Is this, as claimed, evidence that average life expectancy etc.?" then would an answer like "No because there's selection bias" have been on-topic? – ChrisW Jun 15 '15 at 18:18
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The analysis by Jennings states:

when the death ages of these porn stars were averaged it was discovered that the average life expectancy of a porn star is only 37.43 years whereas the average life expectancy of an American is 78.1 years.

He has simply calculated the average age at death of those unfortunate 129 persons and presented it as "average life expectancy of people working in the porn industry."

This is an error in statistical sampling. Life expectancy is not the average age at death of a subset of a group that has died. According to the Wikipedia article on the subject,

life expectancy is a statistical measure of the average time an organism is expected to live, based on the year of their birth, their current age and other demographic factors including gender.

Incorrectly calling the average age at death (37 years) the "life expectancy" gives a very misleading and pessimistic picture.

Moreover, the article ignored the lifespan of the large number of persons who might have worked in the porn industry for many or a few years before retiring or moving on to other occupations.

In short, the figures probably show selection bias, as also pointed out in some early comments on the question.

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    Since porn, as the full-fledged, in the open industry that it is has only been around for a few decades, that probably skews things a bit. I wonder if, say, someone who is 65 and a former porn star, but is still alive is included in the statistics, since we don't have their age at death, yet. Still, in addition to AIDS, it's had something of a history of being a high-risk, exploitative industry with a lot of crossover into criminal behavior and drug use/abuse, as well, so a lower life expectancy is not all that shocking, IMO, even if the data points might wind up being a bit unreliable. – PoloHoleSet Jan 12 '18 at 14:46
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    We are mainly concerned with the figure of 37 years @PoloHoleSet. People in civil war regions have an average life expectancy of 45-60 in this day and age. The porn industry has its risks but 37 years seems such a low expectation. As I said, the people now working in the porn industry are unlikely to lead riskier lives than race car drivers, gangsters, rock stars and law enforcement officials, if not exactly the general population! Did I forget to mention movie stars? Quite a few actresses committed suicide in my home nation. – English Student Jan 12 '18 at 14:50
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    Most of this answer seems your own speculation, but we only allow facts to be posted as answers. – Sklivvz Jan 12 '18 at 20:38
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    Now edited answer to add something I missed originally: I later found it explicitly stated in that article that "When the death ages of these porn stars were averaged it was discovered that the average life expectancy of a porn star is only 37.43 years whereas the average life expectancy of an American is 78.1 years." This is an obvious error of logic because average life expectancy is not at all the average age at death. I have already supported this with a link to the Wikipedia article on the topic. That should be sufficient proof of the fallacy of this claim @Sklivvz. – English Student Jan 13 '18 at 7:04
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    Using this method, one of the most dangerous jobs would be choir boy; their life expectancy must be around 12. It's really ridiculous to calculate the average age of death of a predominantly young industry, and to ignore those that age out. Based on this, I think you are still giving too much credit to the number ('at best a historical figure', 'honest but obvious error', etc). I don't know what the actual number is, but what we can say is that it isn't 37. I think referencing the original source is enough to show this, though you might want to focus your answer a bit on that. – tim Jan 13 '18 at 9:03

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