Performance arts workers are more likely to experience poor mental health than their peers, according to a global scoping review published by Equity.
Led by Dr Lucie Clements, the review spans 111 academic studies related to mental health and wellbeing in students and professionals within the performing arts.
Two academic papers, one reviewing actors and the other ballet dancers, showed depression to be twice as likely in performers than the general population. A separate study found that 54% of musical theatre students reported a level of depression or anxiety that met the rate for diagnosis of a mental disorder.
A meta-analysis reviewing levels of anxiety in a given week found dancers (24%), opera singers (32%), acting students (52%), actors (60%) and rock musicians (90%) to far surpass the levels observed in the general population (6%).
Across the studies, a culture of unstable work, antisocial working hours, time away from home, and financial fears were cited as the main attributors to increased stress and mental health in performance artists.
In response, Equity has created a Mental Health Charter listing five demands.
The union is calling on producers and engagers to address the harmful impacts of precarious work, adopt relevant safeguards in the workplace and ensure inclusion of historically marginalised groups.
It also demands education providers ensure every young person’s training is conducted with dignity and respect and calls on the government to reform the Mental Health Act.
Equity General Secretary Paul Fleming says the charter puts the responsibility on those that control the creative industry: “They show that our demands for improvements in pay, condition and access to the industry aren’t just about our members’ material wellbeing, but their mental health too.”