Survey shows Australian music workers face higher levels of mental illness, unsafe working conditions

More than two thirds of people who took part in the survey, commissioned by Support Act, reported a high or very high level of psychological distress

The results of a new survey indicate a significantly higher level of psychological distress, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation among those working in Australia’s music and live entertainment industry, compared to the general population.

The survey – which compiled answers from 1,304 people working in the music and live performance industries – was conducted throughout March and April by the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University of Technology, and commissioned by music industry wellbeing charity Support Act.

Support Act have released their startling findings in full today (May 25). 66 per cent of participants reported a high or very high level of psychological distress, more than four times the general population.

Respondents from marginalised backgrounds reported higher rates: 83 per cent of non-binary people, 72 per cent of women, 75 per cent of people under 35, 81 per cent of people with a disability or long-term health condition, and 81 per cent of people on a very low income.

59 per cent said they had experienced suicidal thoughts, and 13.3 per cent of that group said they had acted on that ideation. While those questions were related to any point in respondents’ lives, of those who said they had acted on suicidal ideation, a quarter said that had taken place in the last two years.

Over half of those respondents reporting high or very high levels of psychological distress said they had used drugs or alcohol to cope with the pandemic and natural disasters in the past two years. 29 per cent reported currently having an anxiety condition, with 27 per cent reporting depression. That’s more than double the general population.

35 per cent of respondents reported a current mental health conditions – with 29 per cent reporting anxiety and 27 per cent reporting depression, both more than double the general population. Over half of respondents said they had used drugs of alcohol to help cope with stresses over the last two years.

Speaking to NME early into the pandemic, in May of 2020, Support Act CEO Clive Miller said that since the virus began spreading, his organisation had seen a 400 per cent increase in people accessing its wellbeing helpline.

“The bushfires and COVID-19 have reinforced the absolute importance of having an organisation like Support Act,” Miller said at the time. “The work we do both in relation to crisis relief and into health and wellbeing support is absolutely critical, and we want to be able to do more.”

35 per cent of respondents said they had been exposed to unsafe working conditions in the past 12 months, with 28 per cent of respondents saying they had been exposed to bullying. Half of that group said the behaviour had come from managers or other people in positions of power.

15 per cent of respondents said they had received unwanted sexual attention while working in the industry. Of that group, two thirds reported the behaviour coming from members of the public, while a third said it came from peers, and a fifth reported it from managers and other people in positions of power. 32 per cent of respondents reported experiencing ageism, with 14 per cent reporting experiences of racism.

The survey also took a look at the financial state of the industry’s workers, with over a third of respondents reporting income from their work in the sector as less than $30,000 per annum.

The precariousness of working in the music and live entertainment sector was also highlighted. 47 per cent of respondents said they lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Almost half reported an unpredictable work schedule, while 31 per cent said they were worried, to either a large or very large extent, about becoming unemployed.

Support Act are set to detail their findings today as part of the organisation’s Head First conference at the Factory Theatre in Sydney. The event will see notable figures of Australia’s music and entertainment industry gather to discuss mental health and wellbeing – find more information about it here.

For help, support and advice, visit Support Act or:

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