Are Musicians More Likely To Suffer From Depression And Anxiety?

By Britni de la Cretaz 11/04/16

A recent study examined mental health in the music industry.

Are Musicians More Likely To Suffer From Depression And Anxiety?

It turns out there may be some truth to the stereotype of the sad, brooding musician.

A new study called “Can Music Make You Sick?”—published by Help Musicians UK—found that musicians and professionals in the music industry are three times as likely to suffer from depression. Sixty-nine percent of survey respondents said they had experienced depression and 71% reported experiencing panic attacks or high levels of anxiety.

The study found that it’s not a predisposition to sadness that’s to blame for these findings, but that the music industry itself is playing a role in the high numbers of people struggling with depression.

Some of the contributing factors cited in the study were “poor working conditions including: the difficulty of sustaining a living, anti-social working hours, exhaustion and the inability to plan their time/future; a lack of recognition for one’s work and the welding of music and identity into one’s own idea of selfhood; and the physical impacts of a musical career (such as musculoskeletal disorders).”

Another contributing factor that the study reported is one found in almost all industries: systemic sexism.

The study listed “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 a reason that women in the music industry may be experiencing depression or anxiety. This problem has been well-documented, but still lacks any concrete solutions or real commitment by men in the industry to work towards change. In fact, The Daily Beast referred to misogyny as “the music industry’s worst kept secret.”

And while all of these things are contributing factors to depression and anxiety, that depression and anxiety may lead musicians to seek substances as a way to cope with their mental health struggles.

Research shows that people with mental illness are more at-risk for developing substance use disorders: “individuals with overt, mild, or even subclinical mental disorders may abuse drugs as a form of self-medication.”

Not only that, women are also more likely to use alcohol or drugs to cope with the marginalization and sexual objectification they experience on a regular basis.

Maybe this is why so many of our favorite musicians are also people who struggle or have struggled with the disease of addiction. The industry itself could be “making them sick,” and a big culture shift for music is long overdue. One concrete step would be to start filling the gaps in services that the UK study identified, which would help musicians be better able to find the help they need.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
britni headshot.png

Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.