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Seven out of 10 musicians report mental health problems – survey

Generic musician mental health Photo: Marina Young

More than 70% of musicians have experienced anxiety and panic attacks, the largest ever survey into mental health issues in the profession suggests.

Professionals working in the music industry, including those in theatre, may also be up to three times more likely to suffer from depression than the general public, according to the Help Musicians UK survey results.

The research has been undertaken as part of a major campaign investigating mental well-being within the music industry [1], which was launched earlier this year.

The survey attracted more than 2,200 responses, making it the largest of its kind in the world. It includes people working across all genres of music, including those working as musicians in theatre, as well as opera and ballet.

Charity Help Musicians UK commissioned the research, which has been conducted by the University of Westminster, earlier this year as part of its Music and Depression campaign.

It found that, of those that responded, 71% had experienced anxiety and panic attacks, while 65% reported that they had suffered from depression.

A similar survey of more than 550 musicians last year suggested nearly 60% of professional musicians had suffered from depression [2] or other psychological issues.

This year’s survey indicates that musicians may be three times more likely to suffer from depression compared to the general public, where about one in five of the population experience the illness.

Despite the large proportion of musicians highlighting mental health issues to be a problem within the industry, 55% said they felt there were gaps in the provision of available help and 53% said they found it difficult to get help.

In addition, 47% said they wanted to see a dedicated counselling service for musicians set up.

Responding to the survey’s results, Help Musicians UK chief executive Richard Robinson said: “Sadly the results of this survey don’t come as a surprise and paint a concerning picture of the conditions for those working in the music industry.”

He added that the survey was a “vital first step” in understanding the scale of the problem.

“It highlights the importance of the next phases of the survey, which will provide us with recommendations for launching the first industry-specific mental health service,” Robinson said.

When the campaign was launched in May, Help Musicians UK said it hoped to have a service dedicated to musicians’ mental well-being in place by 2017.