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Olly Alexander
Olly AlexanderPhotography Maxwell Clements

Musicians more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety

Issues of gender, exhaustion and self-worth come into play in a new study that reveals the serious toll the industry has on mental health

Musicians and music industry professionals may be three times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, compared to the general public, says a new study.

The study from Help Musicians UK has looked into life in the music industry, and the community that suffers from a serious lack of support. “Can Music Make You Sick” is a report based off a survey of 2,211 respondents undertaken by the University of Westminster and its think tank, MusicTank.

39 per cent of those surveyed identified as musicians (39 per cent), with others in management (9 per cent), music or label publishing (7 per cent), audio production (4 per cent) and live crew (2 per cent). From these numbers, 71 per cent said they had experienced panic attacks or high levels of anxiety. 65 per cent said they had suffered from depression.

To compare to the general population, 19 per cent of those over the age of 16 suffered from anxiety or depression. It’s a pretty big disparity between the music community and the general public – though respondents claimed making music was very much therapeutic, the study highlights serious issues when it comes to supporting mental health.

The study suggests that “poor working conditions” could be the cause of some mental health problems, like “the difficult of sustaining a living, anti-social working hours, exhaustion, and the inability to plan their time/future”. Additionally, respondents pointed to “a lock of recognition for one’s work and the welding of music and identity into one’s own idea of selfhood”, as a major reason the industry might well be making musicians sick. Physical effects also came into play in the survey results, as well as examples of gender discrimination.

The report said: “issues related to the problems of being a woman in the industry – from balancing work and family commitments, to sexist attitudes and even sexual harassment.”

As Pitchfork reports, one participant said: “My depression is made worse by trying to exist as a musician… rarely has playing music been detrimental to my health, quite the opposite… but the industry and socio-economic pressures… make this a fucking shitty industry to try and make a living in.”

A second phase of the study will aim to go deeper into these issues and the industry environment that they’ve spawned from. “Help Musicians UK hopes to launch a nationwide mental-health service for those in the music industry in 2017,” they said.

You can catch up with the full report here.