Artsjournal had recently included a link to a Guardian article reporting that people working in performing arts are twice as likely as the general population to experience depression. This finding was a result of a review of over 100 studies by Dr. Lucie Clements.
Since the article was in The Guardian, I was curious to where the mix of studies were conducted. Whether it was the US, UK, Europe, Asia, etc. In the process, I discovered at Clements has a psychology practice directly working with dancers. While I didn’t find a link to the study on her site, there was an interesting piece where she wonders why it is normal for psychologists to work with athletes but not dancers.
The reasons for the higher instances of depression noted in The Guardian article probably won’t come as a surprise to those of us in the performing arts. However, having just written on Monday about the scarcity mindset and how it might apply to the arts provided some additional context. Especially in respect to the following about scarcity of time:
Antisocial working hours and late-night performances may lead to disruption to sleep or inconsistent sleep routines – a known risk factor for mental health problems.
“The inconsistency of touring and pressures of time travelling, erratic working schedules (including evenings and weekend performance) and chunks of time working away mean a lack of time for loved ones, family or social life,” says the review. “Musicians, for example, spoke of going months without seeing their children. This is important since support from loved ones is known to be one of the most significant protective factors for mental health.”
I hadn’t really thought about the fact that many of us work anti-social hours in order to provide others with the opportunity to socialize and spend time with each other. While it is true, I never thought of it as a zero sum situation where others’ gain is my loss.
Anxiety related to depictions of death and rape in performance were cited along with pressures performers face to maintain a specific weight and body type.
And of course the lack of stability resulting from Covid also factors in.
Other papers found that 24% of ballet dancers reported experiencing anxiety, along with 32% of opera singers, 52% of acting students, 60% of actors and 90% of rock musicians. Among the general population, 6% of individuals are thought to experience anxiety in any given week.