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Musicians Have Higher Prevalence of Eating Disorders

Summary: Researchers from Imperial College London report musicians may have an increased risk of developing eating disorders. In a recent study, researchers found the higher prevalence of eating disorders could be a result of the demands of the job in combination with certain personality traits, including increased levels of perfectionism.

Source: Imperial College London.

They may live for the limelight and the call of their muse, but musicians may also be prone to eating disorders, according to new research.

A study of active musicians – including amateurs, students, professionals, and retired musicians – has found that they may have a high prevalence of food-related disorders, which could be explained by a combination of personality traits and the demands of the job.

According to the researchers, the apparent prevalence of eating disorders seen in musicians “could be due to their increased levels of perfectionism”, and the findings could help doctors to look for warning signs among a subset of patients.

In the study, published this month in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, researchers gave questionnaires to 301 self-reported musicians, focusing on their physical and mental health.

Striving for perfection

Over the course of 28 questions, participants divulged key information about how anxious or depressed they were, their physical health and if they had ever suffered from a clinically diagnosable eating disorder.

The musicians performed across a broad range of musical genres – including jazz, hip hop, folk and rock – but the majority (85%) were classical musicians. Almost two-thirds of the participants were female, and the average age of the group was around 31 years of age.

After analysing the questionnaire data, the researchers revealed almost one-third of the group (32.3%) reported having experienced an eating disorder, a higher proportion than the estimated 1.6 million adults thought to be affected in the UK.

Questions around mental health showed high rates of depression and stress among the group, and anxiety levels were higher still.

According to lead author Marianna Kapsetaki, a concert pianist and current PhD researcher in neuroscience at Imperial, the mental and practical strains arising from an unpredictable work schedule and constant travel may draw professional musicians into “a vicious circle of unhealthy eating”.

Image shows a violin.

The musicians performed across a broad range of musical genres – including jazz, hip hop, folk and rock – but the majority (85%) were classical musicians. Almost two-thirds of the participants were female, and the average age of the group was around 31 years of age. NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the Imperial College London news release.

Dr Kapsetaki explained that the demand to perform and to look the part may also add to the stress of musicians, adding: “These pressures can also lead to anxiety and depression which are risk factors for eating disorders.”

Limiting factors

The authors highlight that a number of limiting factors may have influenced the outcomes, including the fact that musicians under the age of 18 were not incorporated in the study – a group in which eating disorders may be more prevalent – as well as a potential for more musicians with eating disorders to have taken part, based on the nature of the study.

Eating disorders are also statistically more likely to affect girls and women, which may have added to the prevalence reported by the largely female study group.

However, they add that making clinicians aware of the increased prevalence of eating disorders in musicians could enable them to provide additional care, helping to optimise their health, and ultimately, their performance.

Dr Kapsetaki said: “Performing Arts Medicine is a fairly new field and I believe there will be many more interesting projects in the future relating to the mental health of performing artists.”

She added: “Future studies could compare musicians with and without eating disorders with behavioural tests and neuroimaging to see if there are any differences in brain structure.”

About this neuroscience research article

Correction: A careful reader noticed an error in the summary of this article and alerted us via email. The previous summary incorrectly stated “musicians may be at a reduced risk of developing eating disorders.” Thank you very much to C. Gehle for noticing the error and taking the time to email us. We apologize to our readers for the error.

Source: Ryan O’Hare – Imperial College London
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the Imperial College London news release.
Original Research: Full open access research for “Eating disorders in musicians: a survey investigating self-reported eating disorders of musicians” by Marianna Evangelia Kapsetaki and Charlie Easmon in Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity. Published online July 14 2017 doi:10.1007/s40519-017-0414-9

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
Imperial College London “Musicians Have Higher Prevalence of Eating Disorders.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 24 July 2017.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/musicians-eating-disorders-7156/>.
Imperial College London (2017, July 24). Musicians Have Higher Prevalence of Eating Disorders. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved July 24, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/musicians-eating-disorders-7156/
Imperial College London “Musicians Have Higher Prevalence of Eating Disorders.” http://neurosciencenews.com/musicians-eating-disorders-7156/ (accessed July 24, 2017).

Abstract

Eating disorders in musicians: a survey investigating self-reported eating disorders of musicians

Purpose

This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of eating disorders (EDs) in musicians, and to evaluate their relation to perfectionism, stress, anxiety and depression.

Methods

It examined: (1) the prevalence of EDs using the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q), body mass index (BMI) and self-reports, (2) psychological risk factors using the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21) and perfectionism inventory and (3) demographic details, information about musical and career development, lifestyle, eating habits and health. A survey was distributed worldwide and a total of 301 English-speaking musicians aged 18 years and older participated.

Results

Our screening tools for EDs showed a high prevalence of EDs in musicians: the EDE-Q Global Score (EDE-QGS) showed pathological values in 18.66% of the musicians and when questioned about lifetime prevalence, 32.3% of the musicians answered positively. The median BMI was within the normal range. Regarding general mental health, the DASS-21 showed that depression and stress were severe, anxiety was extremely severe and the perfectionism inventory composite score was 26.53. There was no significant difference on the EDE-QGS between musicians who perform different types of music, but music students, professionals, soloists and musicians travelling overseas had a higher percentage of pathological EDE-QGS. Perfectionism was higher in classical musicians and there was a low positive correlation between EDE-QGS and the risk factors: perfectionism, depression, anxiety, stress, peer pressure and social isolation.

Conclusion

EDs are prevalent in musicians and possible risk factors are their increased perfectionism, depression, anxiety and stress due to the demands of their job.

“Eating disorders in musicians: a survey investigating self-reported eating disorders of musicians” by Marianna Evangelia Kapsetaki and Charlie Easmon in Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity. Published online July 14 2017 doi:10.1007/s40519-017-0414-9

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