People in the performing arts are twice as likely to suffer from depression, according to Equity | Mental Health

According to a review of over 100 academic studies, people working in entertainment and the performing arts are twice as likely to suffer from depression as the general population.

The impact of Covid restrictions on theaters and other venues in 2020 and 2021 has exacerbated contributing factors such as job insecurity and low pay, said performing arts practitioners’ union Equity, which ordered the review.

Antisocial work schedules, time away from home, and lack of support from people in authority also fueled anxiety and depression.

The review, conducted by Dr. Lucie Clements, examined 111 academic studies relating to mental health among professionals and students in the performing arts sector over the past 20 years. Two studies, one of actors and the other of ballet dancers, found that depression was twice as likely among performers as among the general population.

Other articles revealed that 24% of ballet dancers reported feeling anxious, along with 32% of opera singers, 52% of theater students, 60% of actors and 90% of rock musicians. Among the general population, it is believed that 6% of individuals experience anxiety in any given week.

More than seven in 10 workers in the sector are self-employed, with irregular working hours, coupled with an expectation of flexibility and availability when the job comes along, according to the study.

Antisocial work hours and nighttime performance can lead to sleep disruptions or inconsistent sleep routines – a known risk factor for mental health issues.

“The inconsistency of touring and the pressures of time travel, erratic work schedules (including evenings and weekends) and long periods of work away from home mean a lack of time for loved ones, family or social life,” the review said. “Musicians, for example, have talked about going months without seeing their children. This is important because the support of loved ones is known to be one of the strongest protective factors for mental health.

According to a study, 83% of actors said that financial stress was a problem at least “sometimes”, with 30% of them experiencing financial stress as a constant problem. Many artists juggle multiple jobs to make ends meet.

In addition to employment-related issues, the review found that the impact of portraying intense emotions and repeatedly portraying extreme situations such as death or rape can contribute to poor mental health. Concerns about how an individual’s performance would be perceived by others were also a contributing factor.

Another was the pressure to conform to aesthetic ideals, “like for actresses and dancers to be thin…. Weight pressures and risk of an eating disorder were directly linked to both depression and anxiety in the dancers… [and] anxiety, depression and stress were all correlated with eating disorders in musicians, including singers.

Paul Fleming, Equity’s General Secretary, said: “This landmark study provides concrete confirmation of what Equity members have known for years: those working in the entertainment and performing arts industries are likely to have a poor mental health. There are a range of contributing factors, but it is abundantly clear that the damaging effects of precarious work, low pay and poor working conditions are fueling this collective crisis.”

In response to the review’s findings, Equity launched a Mental Health Charter with five key demands aimed at improving the mental health and well-being of performers.

They include improving the balance between pay and work life, adopting protective measures and risk assessments in the workplace and ensuring that historically marginalized groups are not excluded from good practice. .

Equity is also calling on the government to invest in mental health services to reverse a decade of underfunding.