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Anti-social hours, lack of pay and exhaustion lead to a ‘profound difficulty’ in sustaining a living in the industry.

Photo of musicians at concert

Two-thirds of people working in the music industry have suffered from depression during their career, according to a major new study by Help Musicians UK.

It also finds 71% have experienced anxiety and panic attacks, and music industry workers may be up to three times more likely to suffer from depression than the public as a whole.

“Music making is therapeutic, but making a career out of music is destructive,” the report concludes.

Profound difficulties

The findings come from a survey of 2,200 respondents to Help Musicians UK’s ‘Music and Depression’ campaign, created in response to the charity’s observation of the “rise in the number of calls and applications from musicians with mental health problems”.

The new report finds problems arise out of the “profound difficulty” of sustaining a living in the music industry, owing to poor working conditions, anti-social working hours, exhaustion, limited pay and the apparent inability of musicians to separate professional and personal setbacks.

It also identified three key concerns for the industry:

  • Finding and accessing available help for mental health issues, whether privately or through the NHS, is time-consuming and difficult
  • Many of the mental health solutions offered revolve around “unhelpful and unwanted” pharmaceutical options
  • Treatment other than prescription drugs is “hugely expensive” and therefore near impossible to access.

By way of response, survey participants suggested creating a counselling service for musicians, better health education, a musicians’ help line and a drop-in centre for musicians.

Uncomfortable precedent

The new report builds on results of a survey published by Help Musicians UK in 2014, which found that almost 60% of professional musicians have suffered from a psychological issue and almost half have experienced problems with alcohol.

The charity is to publish two more pieces of research in 2017, focusing on the characteristics contributing to a sense of mental ill health, and the range of solutions to be offered to musicians and others in the music industry.

Speaking about the new report, Richard Robinson, Chief Executive of Help Musicians UK, 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.

“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.”