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Equity report finds performing arts workers more likely to experience poor mental health

The study found depression is twice as likely to occur in performers

Sam Tutty and the West End company of Dear Evan Hansen, which looks at mental health issues
© Matthew Murphy

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, and a new global study from Equity has found that people who work in the performing arts are more likely to experience poor mental health.

The report by Dr Lucie Clements examined over 100 existing academic studies related to mental health and wellbeing. It found "a clear trend for increased mental health concerns across the performing arts".

Among its findings are that depression is twice as likely to occur in performers than the general population, and that 54% of musical theatre students report a level of depression or anxiety that met the rate for diagnosis of mental disorder.

Equity general secretary Paul W Fleming said: "This landmark study confirms in concrete terms what Equity members have known for years – those working in the entertainment and performing arts industries are more likely to experience poor mental health."

The review identified a range of contributing factors, including a "culture of unstable work, antisocial working hours, time away from home, and financial fears" that cause "stress and mental health concern in performing artists".

It also found that there is currently no research explicitly exploring mental health in relation to ethnically diverse performers, disabled performers, and social class.

Equity has created a Mental Health Charter including five key demands to improve mental health across the performing arts and bring about "deep-rooted structural reform". These include improving pay and work-life balance, and adopting relevant safeguards in the workplace.

Fleming said the Charter "puts the responsibility back on the bosses who control the creative industries. They show that our demands for improvements in pay, condition and access to the industry aren't just about our members' material wellbeing, but their mental health too."

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