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Musicians are three times more susceptible to mental illness says new study

Help Musicians' 'Can Music Make You Sick?' study reveals shocking results

  • Harrison Williams
  • 1 November 2016

This year alone, Benga (pictured), Avicii, Kid Cudi, Moby and Ben Pearce all publicly revealed they have struggled with mental illness. Avicii announced his retirement, Kid Cudi checked into rehab, Moby called touring an "incredibly dangerous profession" and Ben Pearce is taking an indefinite leave from the industry, while Benga made a comeback and released his first new material in three years.

A new study has found that an overwhelming majority of musicians experience anxiety and panic attacks, a fact that has been widely discussed recently with some artists choosing to step away from the scene to focus on their mental health.

Helmed by Sally Anne Gross and Dr George Musgrave for MusicTank at the University of Westminster and published by Help Musicians UK, the recent study, ‘Can Music Make You Sick?’, focused on the issue of mental health in the music industry. With over 2,200 respondents participating, the majority of which are between the ages of 18 and 35 (55.2 per cent male, 43.9 per cent female), this was the largest survey of its kind.

Although it’s becoming more clear that musicians are susceptible to mental illness, the results of the study are still staggering. 71 per cent of respondents believed they have experienced anxiety and panic attacks, while 65 per cent reported they had suffered from depression. This suggests that musicians could be up to three times more likely to suffer from the illness compared to the general public.

Many factors can cause mental illness, but those who participated in the survey attributed their struggles to poor working conditions, the difficulty of sustaining a living, anti-social working hours, exhaustion and the inability to plan their time.

Richard Robinson, chief executive of Help Musicians UK, was not surprised by the survey’s results, but believes this is a step in the right direction to aid musicians in the future.

“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,” said Robinson. “This survey is a vital first step in helping us to establish the scale of the problem and it highlights the importance of the next phases of the survey, which will provide us with recommendations for launching the first music industry specific mental health service.”

The ‘Can Music Make You Sick?’ survey remains ongoing, phase two is already underway and will be revealed in early 2017. A dedicated task force is also being set up to address the issue and discover ways to aid musicians who need help.

Harrison is Mixmag's East Coast Editor. Follow him on Twitter here

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