The life of a touring musician can be just as grueling as it is rewarding. Having to consistently perform in front of massive crowds with severe sleep deprivation and jet lag is the downside of the lives many artists lead. Further confirming a phenomenon that has been a topic of discussion over the past few years, a recent study found that this type of lifestyle does take a toll on one’s health. The study, called ‘Can Music Make You Sick?,’ focused on the issue of mental health in the music industry, finding that the majority of musicians suffer from panic attacks and anxiety.
The University of Westminster’s Sally Anne Gross and Dr. George Musgrave for MusicTank spearheaded the study, which included a survey of over 2,200 participants primarily between the ages of 18-35 (55.2 per cent male, 43.9 per cent female). In results three times higher than those of the general public, 71% of respondents said they have experienced anxiety and 65% said they have suffered from depression. Factors that participants recognized as causing their illnesses included anti-social working hours, exhaustion, and the inability to plan their time, among others.
UK charity organization Help Musicians UK published the study. The company’s Chief Executive, Richard Robinson, commented on the initiative’s forward-thinking next steps: “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.”
As the results of the study imply, artist susceptibility to mental illness is no longer an issue the industry can ignore. Shedding an important emphasis on the issue as of late, some of the biggest names in the industry have spoken out about their struggles: Swedish electronic music megastar Avicii retired at the young age of 26 due to health issues; Ben Pearce announced in July he would be canceling his tour indefinitely due to depression; and electronic music legend Moby shocked in his memoir, Porcelain, as he explained his constant struggle with insomnia and depression.
Phase two of the ‘Can Music Make You Sick?’ survey is currently in progress and will be published in 2017. Facing the issue head-on, the initiative is now focused on finding a way to help musicians who are currently struggling.