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Anxiety and Depression Plagues Musicians Seven Times as Much as Others

by Natasha Tracy  -  December 5th, 2016

Anxiety and Depression Plagues Musicians Seven Times as Much as Others

It’s easy to understand how the anxiety of stage fright would be common among musicians but what might not be as obvious is that depression is also a frequent problem among musicians according to a new study out of the United Kingdom. Can Music Make You Sick, a survey by Help Musicians UK, shows that 71.1% of responding musicians have suffered from panic attacks and/or high levels of anxiety and 68.5% of responding musicians have suffered from depression.

This echoes the results found in the Health and Wellbeing Survey, also run by Help Musicians UK, in which 66.5% of responding musicians reported performance anxiety and 59.6% of responding musicians reported depression or another psychological issue. It is also worth noting that 12.7% of respondents reported drugs or other substance abuse, another mental health concern.

Anxiety and Depression in Musicians Compared to the General Population

According to a study covering Great Britain, more than 1 in 10 people will experience a “disabling anxiety disorder” at some point in their lives. This puts musicians at seven times the risk of the general population in experiencing high levels of anxiety.

According to Adult Psychiatric Morbidity in England 2007: Results of a Household Survey, 4-10% of people in England will experience depression at some point in their lifetime. This puts musicians at about 7-17 times more likely to have experienced depression.

It is worth noting that depression and anxiety often occur together. Also, while these numbers are specifically out of the United Kingdom, mental illness rates do tend to be comparable around the world.

Additionally, drug and substance addiction appears to occur in musicians are much higher rates than in the general population but specific numbers are hard to compare.

What Contributes to the High Anxiety and Depression Levels in Musicians?

While no single factor would cause mental health issues like depression and anxiety in musicians, there are common problems experienced by musicians that could be stressors that exacerbate any possible mental health issues.

According to the Health and Wellbeing Survey, the top four problems faced by musicians either “sometimes” or “often” are:

• Antisocial working hours – making it difficult to maintain the social ties that could protect against a mental health issue – experienced by 84% of musicians

• Money problems – known to worsen anxiety and depression symptoms – experienced by 82% of musicians

• Work insecurity – a cause of anxiety and could worsen depression symptoms – experienced by 78% of musicians

• Illness or physical problems – experienced by 74% of musicians

Additional factors identified that are experienced by more than half of musicians that may contribute to depression and anxiety include:

• Poor eating habits/nutrition

• Lack of exercise

• Loneliness, separation from friends/family

• Relationship problems

Musicians Seeking Professional Help for Problems Like Mental Health Issues

Considering that the majority of musicians experience anxiety and/or depression and more than half of musicians experience at least some of the above eight problems associated with mental health concerns, professional help is something that should be common among musicians. Unfortunately, less than half of musicians sought professional help for their problems even though anxiety and depression are medical issues that should be professionally treated.

According to the Health and Wellbeing Survey:

• 48% of musicians sought professional help

• 29% sought help from friends and/or family

• 13% didn’t want or need help from others

• 8% didn’t know where to get help

One reason for not reaching out for professional help was voiced by a musician who said, “I feel guilty asking for help with something I should be able to deal with given the issues in question are part and parcel of the career path I’ve chosen.”

Dealing with Depression and/or Anxiety

Severe depression or anxiety are serious medical issues and should be treated by a doctor. Often, antidepressants will be prescribed; however, in addition to seeing a doctor, one can:

Severe depression or anxiety are serious medical issues and should be treated by a doctor. In addition to seeing a doctor, one can:

• Work with a therapist using a technique like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

• Join a support group

• Try relaxation techniques, meditation and breathing exercises

• Talk with family members and friends and explain how they can be helpful

• Engage in regular exercise

What’s important to remember is that problems can be worked through and with help, so can depression and anxiety.


Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Treatment. Accessed November 21, 2016.

Anxiety UK, Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed November 21, 2016.

Help Musicians UK, Can Music Make You Sick? Part One: Pilor Survey Report Summary. Nov. 2016.

Help Musicians UK, Health and Wellbeing Survey. 2014.

Mental Health Foundation, Mental health Statistics: The Most Common Mental Health Problems. Accessed November 21, 2016.


Natasha Tracey is a professional writer and author for Bipolar Burble. She currently worked as a freelancer for Kingsblog.

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