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New Study Claims Musicians are Three Times More Likely to Suffer from Depression

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“What came first… the music or the misery?”

A new study conducted by Help Musicians UK (HMUK) “that musicians are three times more likely to have depression than people in other lines of work,” according to teamrock.com. Which should really surprise anyone: plenty of musicians have discussed their struggles with depression publicly, which is to say nothing of the fact that the history of music is bursting at the seams with lyrics about depression and emotional turmoil.

What may come as a surprise, however, is the way the results of this study are being interpreted. HMUK chief executive Richard Robinson calls the study “a vital first step in helping us to establish the scale of the problem,”  and the article goes on to note that “Participants in the survey put their depression down to poor working conditions within the industry, such as ‘the difficulty of sustaining a living, anti-social working hours, exhaustion and the inability to plan their time or future.'”

In other words, it seems like the results of the study are being interpreted to mean that working in the music industry causes depression, and does not seem to consider that people who struggle with depression may often be attracted to working in the music industry.

Yes, the music industry does, indeed, fail to provide career stability while demanding so-called “anti-social working hours.” It’s also primarily populated by — duh — people who LOVE MUSIC. Yes of course there’s always going to be a few assholes chasing fame and glory, but they’re fairly few and far between because — again — if your goal is to make a ton of money, the music business is not ideal. Those people tend to run for the exit when they get their first paycheck and realize how little they’re making for every 80-hour work week. The people who stick around are sincerely passionate about the medium. (And this is doubly true in metal, which, I don’t have to tell you, inspires cult-like devotion in its fans.)

Would those people who tough it out like to make more money and work fewer hours and have more job security? Hey, who wouldn’t?

Does the lack of money, job security, and leisure time add to their depression? Almost certainly.

But is it the cause of their depression?

Doubtful.

A prominent musician who shall go unnamed told me earlier this year that he specifically got into metal when he was a kid because he was being bullied at school. Just the other night, another well-known musician told me he has trouble sleeping because he can never stop thinking and obsessing over things. Speaking to The MetalSucks Podcast recently, The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Ben Weinman asserted that “It’s not healthy to want to be in front of a crowd dancing around and singing to them. It’s just, like, mentally insane… it’s a very unhealthy mental state to be in, to be in a band in general.”

 

The same way no one is surprised when the notoriously slimy financial industry naturally attracts douchebags, no one is surprised when artists turn out to be people who struggle with severe emotions. Art is dramatic, and it attracts dramatic people who feels things, y’know, dramatically. Which makes them highly susceptible to depression and anger and all sorts of other unpleasant feelings.

The silver lining is that these people also experience highs many of their peers will never know — yes, they’re often depressed, but, again, they’re often fervently passionate, too.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. You don’t have to be miserable to make great art. But history has showed us time and again that miserable people often do make great art. Music (and art in general) has always been a great therapeutic outlet for people suffering from emotional distress, and it will continue to serve this purpose. Depression isn’t a symptom of the music industry — it’s one of the music industry’s foundations.

Agree? Disagree? Weigh in below.

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