New Research: Musicians struggle significantly with well-being

New research has established that the well-being and mental health of Danish creative and performing musicians are far worse than in the general population. This study is the first step in identifying specific solutions for a healthier music industry. It was initiated by the Partnership for Sustainable Development in Music.

In recent years, we have often encountered personal accounts and news articles highlighting challenges, including depression, stress, and anxiety, within the Danish music industry. Professional stakeholders in the music industry must also take responsibility for addressing these challenges. However, to improve mental health, it is essential to understand the full extent of the problem. Therefore, the Partnership for Sustainable Development in Music, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom, has conducted the most extensive study in Scandinavia to date on the mental health of Danish creative and performing musicians (hereinafter referred to as musicians).

A group of industry professionals has gathered under the Partnership for Sustainable Development in Music to, among other things, shed light on this challenge. The objective is to determine the full scope of the problem, its underlying causes, and then collaboratively develop concrete and meaningful solutions to increase overall well-being within the industry.

Musicians rank low on the happiness barometer

Denmark boasts being the second happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report. However, when Danish musicians are assessed using the same metrics, the results are entirely different. In a study of over 1,800 musicians, a substantial 17 percent are considered to be suffering. This is in stark contrast to the general population, where only 3 percent are suffering. Moreover, 24 percent of the musicians are categorized as struggling, compared to just 5 percent in the wider society.

“It’s deeply disheartening to see these numbers and realize the extent of lack of well-being in our industry, especially in contrast to the rest of the Danish population. These figures greatly impact me and highlight the urgent need for a collective effort to foster a healthier music industry for everyone,” says Gorm Arildsen, CEO of Koda, speaking on behalf of the partnership.

Every second musician has abnormally high levels of anxiety

Nearly half of the participants in the study exhibit abnormally high levels of anxiety, with the issue being particularly pronounced among the younger demographic. Focusing on the 25-29 age group, 80 percent experience unusually high levels of anxiety, and 15 percent are categorized as having levels of severe anxiety. The study also highlights gender as a significant factor, with 40 percent of men in the music industry reporting abnormally high anxiety levels, compared to a notable 65 percent among women.

“This is the first time we have conducted research of this scale on well-being in the Danish music industry. The objective is to determine where, how, and for whom we should direct specific initiatives and solutions. Therefore, this study is just the initial step in our joint effort. The substantial task of developing tangible and realistic solutions to these problems is our next challenge,” states Gorm Arildsen.

Collaborative solutions to boost well-being

This study represents the initial phase of an extensive research project. In the next phase, industry stakeholders, musicians, and experts will gather for workshops. These workshops, grounded in the research findings, aim to identify specific and ambitious initiatives that can enhance well-being across the industry. The goal is to produce a set of concrete recommendations by spring, which the industry can implement.

“Mental health challenges among musicians worldwide are increasingly being brought to light, which makes our findings, unfortunately, not surprising. Therefore, it’s crucial that we now come together with musicians and industry representatives to collaboratively create meaningful changes which are essential for ensuring a sustainable industry where musicians can thrive,” states Dr. George Musgrave, a researcher on the project.

Download the report

You can read the full report from phase 1 here.

Read more about our work to promote mental health and well-being in music – and about the other phases of the study here.

The Project has received funding from Velliv Foreningen

The project is backed by Velliv Foreningen. Velliv Foreningen works towards ensuring that more Danes lead a good life with well-being. Velliv Foreningen supports projects that promote job satisfaction and mental health in the workplace.