Prevalence and Etiology of Depression in U.S. Symphonic Orchestra Musicians

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This study reports on the results of a psychosocial questionnaire survey of professional symphonic musicians in the United States. The response rate was 12.36% (n= 395) and the sample was members of the International Conference of Symphonic and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) which is a conglomerate of the top 50 orchestras in the United States. Participants exhibited significantly higher depression levels than the general U.S. public prevalence rates listed in the DSM-5. 98.7% of musicians screened for depression as understood of a score of fourteen or higher on the Beck Depression Inventory, and 100% scored seventeen or higher on the Beck Anxiety Inventory. Both anxiety measures, the BAI and KMPAI, were highly correlated with BDI scores. Due to the raised prevalence rates of both depression and anxiety, these illnesses should be targeted concurrently. Performance anxiety had the largest correlation with depression and, unexpectedly, Tukey’s HSD tests showed use of beta blockers was associated with higher depression and anxiety scores . This study reconfirmed the link between perfectionism and depression, yet due to the necessity of perfectionism in a professional music career, common perfectionism-focused interventions are not viable for musicians. However, self- compassion and psychosocial stress were significantly related to depression scores and may be viable targets for intervention. We suggest that these stark findings indicate that psychologists should develop targeted self-compassion interventions and orchestral management should work to minimize psychosocial stressors to possibly reduce the rampant mental health issues seen in the industry.

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  • 06/04/2019
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