Here’s something that’s probably not all that surprising: A new study published by Help Musicians UK, a charity for UK musicians, has discovered that musicians and music industry professionals may be more than three times more likely to suffer from depression than the general public.
As Pitchfork notes, the report, titled “Can Music Make You Sick?”, is based on a survey of 2,211 people by the University of Westminster and its music industry-focused think tank, MusicTank. All cliches about brooding singer-songwriters aside, this is a serious issue that points to a critical lack of mental-health support in the music community. And it’s not just musicians who are affected — while the largest group of participants self-identified as musicians (39%), the study also accounted for other industry roles including music management (9%), label or music publishing (7%), audio production (4%),and live crew (2%).
The study paints a somewhat grim picture of life in the music industry, with 71% of respondents reporting that they have experienced panic attacks and/or high levels of anxiety, and another 65% claiming to have suffered from depression. This is in stark contrast to the general population of the UK, in which 1 in 5 adults (19%) has experienced anxiety or depression.
So why, exactly, are musicians so depressed? The reasons are actually quite obvious and have a lot to do with the competitive, economically unstable nature of an industry that asks a lot from its contributors. Respondents attributed their mental sickness to everything from the physical exhaustion of working long hours without pay to issues related to the problems of being a woman in the industry, including sexist attitudes and sexual harassment.
As one respondent explained: “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 f*****g s**** industry to try and make a living in.”
Another elaborated: “I’m not sure I’d say it’s the music that makes me sick. It’s the lack of things I’d consider success. It’s the lack of support doing something that’s not considered ‘real work.’”
Read a summary of the study here.