March 28, 2023

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Research Shows: Physical and Mental Problems Make Professional Musicians “Work Hard” | showbiz

Professional musicians have a particular difficulty. Not only do they run a physical risk of hearing damage, among other things. They also suffer from a lot of psychological stress. This emerged from a study by KU Leuven-HIVA, Luca Arts and Idewe, commissioned by the European Commission. It’s a “challenging task,” researcher Lode Vermeersch stresses.

In the past, research has also been done on the mental and physical well-being of musicians. Although this research was mainly aimed at classically trained musicians or students. This is why this research is the first. It’s the first time the researchers have looked at the pool of professional musicians across Europe. And that even across different genres. For example, DJ was included in the study. But rock, pop, blues and jazz genres are also represented, as are classically trained musicians.

Study participants were drawn from a representative sample of European countries, including Belgium, Spain, Poland, Malta, Denmark, Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands. Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with all participants, from the end of 2020 to the spring of 2022.


Music production has completely changed in recent years. Artists are less attached to the short, crowded periods of album releases and tours, and they have to be constantly online and try to get noticed.

Louis Vermeersch

physical and mental risks

The research found that a wide range of factors put professional musicians at risk. In the first place, there are some physical risks such as exposure to a high volume, repetitive body movements that can cause complaints, and also in the long run, problems with sound or hearing.

Mental difficulties also occur among musicians. The interviewed artists indicated, among other things, that they feel lonely, stressed, and afraid. In recent years, the phenomenon of social media has also been added. “The ‘technology’ of always feeling the need to be online puts extra pressure on musicians,” says researcher Vermeersch. “Music production has completely changed in recent years. Artists are less attached to the busy short periods of album releases and tours, and they have to be constantly online and try to get noticed.”

(Read more below the photo.)

© Ben Hodijk

shocking cases

The results are in line with the researchers’ expectations. “The professional world of music is a difficult one, full of many uncertainties. In this regard, the sector shows similarities with, for example, the world of top sports or the academic world.”

Sometimes researchers recorded “shocking” situations. “But at the same time we also saw the musicians’ passion for their craft,” Vermeersch says. “They get so excited that they don’t want to stop because it feels like taking a step back. There is some tension to that emotion.”


The researchers also formulated some policy recommendations. For example, it is important to pay adequate attention to all aspects of the physical and mental well-being of musicians, and this must begin with training. For example, it would be nice for the European Commission to take action in the field of higher technical education: the brand could, for example, pay more attention to “healthy” music schools.

Medical personnel, such as psychologists or physiotherapists, who specialize in helping musicians, should be more connected, so that musicians can find them more quickly. For example, when artists are on tour, it would be easier to contact an advisor.

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