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Psychological well-being in professional orchestral musicians in Australia: A descriptive population study

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Psychology of Music

Published online on


We report the major findings from the psychosocial questionnaire component of a cross-sectional population survey of the musicians in Australia’s eight full-time professional symphonic and pit orchestras. The response rate was 70% (n = 377). Female musicians reported significantly more trait anxiety, music performance anxiety, social anxiety, and other forms of anxiety and depression than male musicians. The youngest musicians (<30 years) were significantly more anxious compared with the oldest musicians (51+). The youngest female musicians were most affected by music performance anxiety. Music performance anxiety was lowest for the older musicians (51+ years). Thirty-three per cent of musicians may meet criteria for a diagnosis of social phobia. Twenty-two per cent answered in the affirmative to a question screening for post-traumatic stress disorder. Thirty-two per cent returned a positive depression screen; this subgroup had higher scores on the anxiety measures. Linear regression analysis identified the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-T), the Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN), the Anxiety and Depression Detector (ADD) and age as independent predictors of music performance anxiety severity. Significant numbers of musicians drank alcohol in a manner outside the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) alcohol guidelines (2009); only 6% were current smokers. This study has identified a significant pattern of anxiety, depression and health behaviours that require attention in occupational health and safety policies and programmes for this workforce.