New findings on ‘Depression and anxiety symptoms in music students’

The ‘Music & Wellbeing’ group are excited for and proud of our founding member Michaela Korte, who submitted her PhD thesis in December 2018. Her thesis is entitled:

The suffering artist − Depression and anxiety symptoms in music students: Understanding hidden influences and planning effective interventions

Her studies investigated depression within the music student adolescent populations (under 25 years of age) as compared to control groups of non-music students, using self-report variables such as anxiety, professional identification, pain catastrophizing, and coping strategies.  The initial aim of her work was to test the theory that music students are more vulnerable to depression and if so, what components of this complex disorder may be more prominent.

A hierarchical linear regression of the data confirmed that the variables she tested were relevant predictors of depression but, in a reverse of expectations, she found that university musicians and music college musicians were less at risk to suffer from depression, compared to their non-musician student counterparts.

Being a musician was not found to be a significant predictor for depression.

Subsequent statistical decision trees, using depression and anxiety as two separate predictors, confirmed this finding. Variables pertinent to being a musician (daily practice time and self-identification) only became relevant to the model when it predicted anxiety.

Michaela used the rest of her thesis to consider the possible reasons why musicians may be less at risk for depression at this life stage.

One possible reason is the strong integration and networking within their community. Michaela conducted additional qualitative research (interviews) with professional musicians who had previously experienced depression, which confirmed the self-sufficient resourcefulness of music students within their community. This interview study also highlighted the (under-) development of mental health support structures within music colleges during the last 40 years, drew attention to possible problems, and introduced new ideas for prevention methods for this community.

We wish Michaela every success when she defends her thesis in March 2019 and look forward to the papers she will publish with these fascinating new findings.