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Study finds artists receiving a weekly stipend of €325 were less likely to experience anxiety and depression.

Creative team two woman working with computer in modern office


Research into the impact of Ireland's Basic Income for the Arts (BIA) scheme has found that, after six months, participants have experienced improvements in mental well-being while also dedicating more time and resources to their creative practice. 

The findings are part of an initial impact assessment into the programme - the first in a series of research papers that will be published as part of the project, designed to assess whether self-employment is a viable pathway for artists when income instability is reduced.

Its publication follows a review of pay and conditions in Ireland’s performing arts and music industries, published in August, which found that creatives were experiencing a sharper decline in earnings than in any other sector, with an average weekly pay in the last quarter of 2022 of €582.36, equating to 65% of the average (€900.26) for employees across all sectors.


Open to established and recently trained artists and creative arts workers in Ireland, BIA sees a ‘treatment group’ of around 2,000 randomly selected participants paid a weekly stipend of €325 in monthly instalments between October 2022 and October 2025.

There is no cap on how much artists can earn on top of the payment, which is treated as earnings from self-employment for taxation.

Pilot participants complete a survey every six months, with their answers compared with a ‘control group’ of around 1,000 artists who do not receive a basic income but are paid €650 per year in recognition of the time taken to complete the questionnaires.

In April 2023, six months into the study, almost one-third of BIA recipients reported that they could sustain themselves through artwork alone, compared with less than one-quarter in October 2022. BIA recipients were also 19.2 percentage points less likely to have difficulty making ends meet than the control group. 

The group receiving the basic income payment also reduced their weekly hours spent working in other sectors by more than three hours compared with the control group, which experienced an average increase in time spent working in other sectors by half an hour. 

Time spent each week on creative practice increased by 3.5 hours for the treatment group compared with the control group, with one and a half hours more spent on research and experimentation, one hour more on management and administration, and one hour more presenting to audiences.

BIA recipients were also found to dedicate more money to their creative work compared with the control group; each month, they spent €353 more on equipment and materials, €18 more on advertising marketing, €34 more on workspaces, and €24 more on work travel.

Mental well-being

When it came to well-being, the survey found several “statistically significant” improvements in the treatment group, both in the short and longer term.

BIA recipients were almost 10 percentage points less likely to have a prevalence of both anxiety and depression in the previous four weeks.

Looking back over the past six months, there was a 57% decrease in the number of people in the treatment group who reported feeling depressed or anxious "all of the time", while the number of people who felt the same way in the control group increased slightly during the same period.

When asked to rate their overall life satisfaction six months into the pilot, rates for all participants were below national averages, but there was an improvement for BIA recipients compared with the control group.

In April 2023, fewer than 7% in the control group and roughly 10% in the treatment group rated their life satisfaction as high. This represented a 0.7% point increase for the latter group, while the figure for the former stayed almost the same.


Patrick Fox, Chief executive of Merseyside-based community arts organisation Heart of Glass, said he would welcome a similar experiment in the UK.

Fox, who is Irish and has worked across the arts sector in both Ireland and the UK, said that he would be particularly keen to see a pilot "within the context of more process-based and community-based working practices" in light of rates of burnout for this type of work being significantly higher.

"We’ve been following the trial with great interest, and the early signs seem really positive," he said.

"Through our continued work with artists, we are all too familiar with the anxieties and stresses associated with a creative life and the competitive nature of our funding structures - that can prove time-consuming and also creatively stifling.

"Whilst not perfect or indeed the solution to the many mounting challenges we face as a planet and species, exploring universal basic income does offer a way for us to begin to free ourselves from the idea that things have to exist the way they do."

Self-sustaining careers

Catherine Martin, Irish Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, said she was “reassured” by the early findings of the pilot scheme, which has been one of her “key priorities”.

“Artists and creative arts workers in receipt of the payment are experiencing less anxiety and depression, spending more time working in their chosen fields, and investing more in their arts career.  It shows that the scheme has had a positive impact during the first six months of payments and has the potential to transform creative practice."

“My ambition is that the scheme makes it possible for artists to have self-sustaining careers in the arts without the need to work in other sectors out of economic necessity."

A headshot of Mary Stone