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CPS research sheds positive light on musicians' psychological health

Thursday 8 November 2018

A new study from the Centre for Performance Science (CPS) has revealed that classical musicians score higher than the general population on some important aspects of wellbeing. The study also highlights the need for a new approach to research around wellbeing within the music sector.

The study surveyed a sample of 601 professional musicians from 41 countries, who answered a questionnaire based on the PERMA wellbeing model. The model comprises five building blocks of wellbeing: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. Musicians scored higher than general population samples on Positive Emotion, Relationships and most notably Meaning, defined as ‘a sense of purpose and serving something larger than the self’.

The findings shed light on the lack of common language in musicians’ health research around what ‘wellbeing’ means. Although the World Health Organisation is clear on defining wellbeing positively, most research with performing artists focuses on negative aspects, including anxiety, depression and stress. The CPS study provides a more complete picture of musicians’ wellbeing, showing that when positive indicators are evaluated, musicians show promising results. These findings can inform the development of new health and wellbeing support initiatives within both music education and the profession.  

Study author and CPS doctoral candidate Sara Ascenso commented: ‘This is the first time we have profiled wellbeing from a positive perspective with a large sample of professional musicians. It is striking that musicians score so highly on these key elements of wellbeing, given the large amount of research pointing to the music profession being a challenging one. Our findings prompt us to reflect on whether wellbeing research within the music sector has been asking the right questions.’

For more information on the study, read the full report on the Frontiers in Psychology website. To find out more about the CPS, a joint venture between the Royal College of Music and Imperial College, click here.

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