Pro musicians more susceptible to mental health challenges?

Here are the actual stats.

Few quick notes. I’m surprised they attempted to lump everyone into groups by genera. I know VERY few musicians who make a living play only one style of music exclusively.

“In the largest known academic study of its kind, a survey of over 2,200 musicians revealed they are up to three times more likely to experience depression compared to the general public.”

??? But did they administer a control group survey to the rest of the general public?

“Money worries, due to precarious and unpredictable pay plus the juggling of many different jobs, can exacerbate the issue, with poor working conditions cited as a major issue.”

My question would be how or why would this be different from owning a construction company, law firm, restaurant, or auto repair facility?? You are building different houses, litigating different cases, or repairing different vehicles. To say that we have to work ‘multiple jobs’ is all part of ONE job if you ask me.

“Elsewhere, the report found sexual abuse, bullying and discrimination may also be prevalent, with a musician’s working environment prone to being antisocial and unsympathetic.”

Really? Lets throw the poor musicians a pity party. :frowning:

‘The British music industry is in rude health and has a world class reputation…Together we can continue to chip away at the stigma, so that in the long term those working in the community never have to suffer in silence.’

No, M-Magazine, you can’t. And here’s why: Even if said ‘depressed musicians’ read your magazine, you have little control over their personal choices.

Here’s the bottom line (for me). In the music world, I can look in one direction, and see a bunch of disgruntled, burned out, mad at the world, drink your problems away, jealous, defensive, out of touch with reality, punks. That felt they got screwed by the system.

Then I can turn the other way, and see a bunch of experienced, resilient, hard working, ambitious, driven, thriving, creative people, with an unwavering and relentless commitment to never being beat. And with a healthy functional social support system around them.

I started to struggle emotionally when I was recording too many rappers. I asked myself “Jonathan, why do you feel like shit every day when you go into work? Oh…because your client base sucks? Then lets find new clients. Ok. Agreed!”. The difference between being a depressed drunk vs a healthy person, for me, has been about choosing to make a change.

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Sounds like this study is a little inaccurate, I’m not sure if I trust it. Not everyone is going to go the Van Gogh way and cut of their ear. Most of the people I know who live off of music seem pretty happy. They get to make their own hours and spend the day doing what the love with one of the most pure emotional outlets. These people sound like the PMRC from the '80s just trying to blame the music for the decline of western civilization.

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One thing they completely overlooked is that a huge number of musicians, artists, and creative people are HSP (Highly Sensitive People) IMO. Painting all humans with one brush, especially just by occupation, is patently ridiculous I think. No disrespect to the study and results, but I’d say they missed the mark by not even looking down that avenue. HSP’s, who account for 15-20% of the human population (and many animal species as well), are more prone to such things as depression, anxiety, and overwhelm simply because of the nature of being Highly Sensitive.

HSP is a hard wired human trait from birth, and it may even have a genetic heredity thread through families. Your nervous system is more open to stimulation and floods of sensory information coming in. There are multiple challenges with being HSP, but there are also great benefits. By nature, many HSP’s are non-conformists and don’t fit into “the system” easily. They tend to challenge authority figures (especially when there is BS involved). We tend to be highly creative and have a great appreciation for the arts (a by-product of the highly sensitive nervous system). We experience intense emotions, typically, which means there are great highs and great lows. So it’s very understandable that depression and anxiety can easily come to the forefront (especially living in a “hardy” society), but there is also the opposite of great joy and communion with nature and other sensitive souls.

There are many aspects of HSP, but the basic traits (D.O.E.S.) are defined thus:

  • Depth of Processing - Deep thinking, analysis, and contemplation. Great insights. Going down the rabbit hole.

  • Overstimulation - Mentioned above, the highly sensitive nervous system can easily be overwhelmed at high stimulation levels. This can cause fatigue and stress compared to a “hardy” non-HSP. It can also be a lot of fun, kind of a natural high. #StimulusJunkie

  • Emotional Empathy - An ability to empathize with other people and “read” them and their emotions. aka “Empath” in some situations. A keen “BS detector” when people are lying or being deceptive.

  • Sensitivity to Subtleties - HSP’s take in a lot of information, but also notice the smallest details. We can be very perceptive and aware of our environment, while also being “lost in our head” from Depth of Processing. We can be perfectionists and chameleons (adapting to others or the environment as needed).

Because of the tendency for HSP’s to seek self-employment or alternative careers (due to being non-conformists usually), and a deep need for meaningful creative work, some of the other aspects the study mentioned could be directly tied to that. There is inherently more risk in creative occupations and being “off the grid”. HSP’s may not care about material wealth or possessions as much as our society expects us to, and so they are judging what people “should” do when conforming to social standards. To heck with that. :wink: Create your own reality.

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It sounds accurate but biased. Which arguably reduces to inaccurate.

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I like this study. It is flawed like every study is; however it attempted to put a scientific perspective on mental health in the music industry.

I was surprised that alcohol and drug abuse was left entirely out. I think alcohol and drug abuse is about the same in the music industry as any other sector. The difference in music is that we are expected to at least drink while we work.

I would have liked to see more suggested solutions as well. I do give them an A for effort and starting to get some perspective in the industry. Breaking things up into genres was great because it let me know that they respected a metal performer as much as a classical performer even though metal performers did not participate as much.

Thanks for posting this. I will be sharing it with students that hope to have a career in music.

I don’t know that we’re expected to, as much as we’re ‘permitted to’. lol. Its about the only profession where you get away with it (on the job) which probably leads to a lot of it, though it doesn’t necessarily CAUSE it.

By the way… @Paul999, can you merge the thread that I started and the one the Dave started?

Neither of us can with our mod privileges, but you might be able to with your admin privileges.

I used to work construction for a very brief time, not because I needed to, I just wanted the experience. We were all downing like twelve Pabst Blue Ribbon cans on a conservative day. Six before and six after lunch. So cheap, but it goes down easy. My lowest point was when I downed an entire 24-pack in one day, before lunch. I ended up staying longer than I wanted to just because I was too drunk to think clearly. I haven’t had a drink in years now working with music, not because I actively choose not to, I’m just never in the mood. I was never an alcoholic because I didn’t ever feel like I needed to drink it. Just did it for the fun, and the 24 before lunch was just a bet because I was so skinny. The other guys didn’t think I could handle it. I can’t write a song drunk though, it usually ends up sounding like a murder scene with some chords here and there.

Very interesting. I see a lot of my life in there, although I somehow became pragmatic enough to find a different way to make a living for 30 years or so. It is very hard to communicate what being a musician is really like to people who have no interest in that lifestyle. I can honestly say that I’ve done okay for myself and my family outside of music, but I have never had the feeling of accomplishment in my career that I had from time to time as a musician.
To become a true lifer, you have to be willing to tell everyone around you that doesn’t understand why you would put yourself through it that it is the only thing you ever wanted to do, regardless of the outcome. When I started learning the guitar at 14, it took over my life, and school and “my future” as others wanted it to be took a back seat. I did fine in school, and college, and post college, but it never motivated me like music did. That in and of itself can be depressing, and can lead to a lot of problems at a normal job or career, which I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid for the most part. The feeling of a few hundred people applauding for your self taught skill and the ability to convey emotion through that skill is very difficult to compete with.


Magazines and news shows have been claiming that creative people are inherently susceptible to mental health issues for a very long time. Aren’t the craziest people always the most creatively gifted? I was kind of hoping that this forum was filled with nutjobs. I mean come on, aren’t we all at least a bit insane??..I can safely say that sanity isn’t all that easily accessible for me. :crazy_face::crazy_face::stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye::scream:

I’m a nutjob, jobby jobberson.

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You know the more I get to know you, I reckon you should be world president. You have an answer or a question for everything.

PS For the record, I suffer deep depression and long term Deep & enduring Anxiety problems. And I’m a … M*******.

(Fill in the blanks.)

Ass muncher? @midge (Filling in the blanks).


You really have no idea, do you.
You’re the kind of soul who goes around thinking that if he tells someone suffering from depression to pull themselves together, they’ll get better.
I pity you.
And, for the record, the UK’s most successful campaign to combat depression is Time To Talk. Getting people to admit they have a depressive illness and talk about it is a real way of helping people get better. So this magazine CAN contribute to that.

Meantime Jonathon, I’d suggest you remember a well known saying: “There but for the grace of God.” Whether you believe in a deity or not, you should understand that.

I hope, for your sake, you’re never stricken with depression. If you are, I’ll be sure to stop by and tell you to “Pull yourself together and snap out of it.”

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Since we’re on the subject of musicians with mental health problems, lets leave this response up there and not flag it down. Perhaps it could be useful.

I would encourage you to get in the habit of thinking through rants before you post them. Try this. Write them down. Wait a day. Revisit them the next day, and use your best judgement to evaluate 3 things:

1 - if you have correctly and accurately interpreted the excerpt you are felt compelled to rant against
2 - if your rant is relevant, necessary, and meaningful to anyone other than yourself
3 - if your rant is potentially violates any rules within the scope of the platform you wish to rant on

So for example, note that the writer (who was me) said FOR ME (which means me personally), was not making a sweeping assertion about all depressed musicians and their ability/inability to defeat depression through will power alone. So regarding point #1, if you take the time to re-read, and you may find that the person did not actually say what you think they said. I’ve found it can save a great deal of time and energy on everyones behalf to stay open minded, and to respond instead of react.

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Your line IS a sweeping assertion.

People with mental health issues cannot necessarily “make a change”. It is akin to telling them toi "pull themselves together.

I think it’s a great idea to leave the posts up here. Shows what effective help can be.

I tried to read through and get context around the discussion. I actually find Midge’s statement reasonable and accurate, and not a rant. Now, he did address you directly because you had made a statement (about yourself), though I agree that your statement might be interpreted to imply that anyone else could simply make a decision as you had. At the very least it does seem like a rather simplified view of mental health issues (and substance addiction). These things are associated with chemical changes in the brain and body, and simple willpower has been shown to be largely ineffective in treating them. That said, your statement “choosing to make a change” does have relevance, as there usually needs to be some impetus for improving the situation - whatever it might require.

Since you found something that worked for you, it might have been helpful to expand on that, or to say that you would expand further but it would be a bit too personal. We really have no idea what you are talking about when you make that statement. Did you struggle with depression and/or alcoholism and simply wish it away? Or did you go through a ‘down’ period and drink a bit excessively? There could be a huge difference.

And to clarify, depression can be a natural state that most everyone goes through at some stage of their life. It’s part of the “Grief Cycle”, aka DABDA (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). The difference between that and “clinical depression” is that someone grieving the loss of a loved one or a job etc may be depressed for a few days or few weeks going through the DABDA process. Someone clinically depressed may be stuck for months or years, or most of their life. This is one of the problems - depression has a stigma attached to it, without the clarification of what someone means when they say it. So I think that Midge refuting your (potentially sweeping) assertion may have been an attempt at education, which seems to be the theme of the article and the thread.

Is it the music industry that makes people depressed or is it that depressed people tend to work in the music industry? I think it’s the latter. I’d imagine that depressed people tend to lean on music more when things are hard, so they tend to be more likely to become a musician of some sort, and musicians are more likely to work in the music industry. I thought this was pretty well known. I think it goes for the entertainment industry in general.


Personally I think people are more hard-wired to being creative and/or performers, per my comments in Post # 3.

People (especially kids) take music lessons and learn music long before they become adults and experience “hard times”. Many musicians are life-long, and those that take it up as aged adults - in my observation - do it from a sense of joy and expression. I would take issue with the term “depressed people” as well. That label sounds like the stigma I mentioned in Post # 16. It is only a small part of a complex person. Wasn’t it you yourself that posted something a long time ago in RR about “depressive realism”? I thought that was really interesting. I think it said that someone who experiences a depressive viewpoint can actually see things closer to reality than those that choose the “rose-colored glasses” approach.

Not all musicians necessarily work or interact with the “music industry”, as it relates to the old definition of that phrase anyway. Is a band that plays in a bar or at a party part of the “music industry”? If you buy your instruments from Guitar Center, are you part of the “music industry”? Is someone recording their song composition in their home studio part of the “music industry”?

I’d say the same thing applies to entertainers in general, and that HSP may account for that as well.

Reminds me of ‘High Fidelity’. “Do I listen to pop music because I’m depressed, or am I depressed because I listen to pop music?” - John Cusack.

@midge is just a passionate man. He doesn’t mean any harm, sometimes he’s just REALLY REALLY REALLY keen on driving his point home. That’s why he’s my primary care physician. He’s not afraid to tell me what I don’t want to hear. Johnny is a man’s man. He has a six pack, wears flannel and can move his pectoral muscles at will.

Or people that already have a chemical imbalance tend to be pretty creative. Usually depressed people have some really good art, emotional music, or other right side of the brain shit because they’ve experienced living hell. Another one of my experiences.

Another angle that the study completely missed:

Living in caves must have been depressing. :wink: