The Show Must Go On—Eating Disorders Among Musicians

The Show Must Go On—Eating Disorders Among Musicians

When we think of occupations that have a higher prevalence for developing an eating disorder fashion models, celebrities and actors come to mind. But a recent study published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders-Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity shows a group at high risk that has gone largely unrecognized—musicians. Dr. Mark Gold, chairman of RiverMend Health’s Scientific Advisory Board, weighs in about the lack of awareness, “One probable reason is that musicians are a very diverse group of artists. A first seat cello player in the Boston Philharmonic would seem to have little in common with a drummer in a heavy metal band in London. Yet the research yielded numerous risk factors and incidence data among all subsets of study participants.”

Investigators surveyed more than 300 musicians including amateurs, music students, professionals and retired musicians. Two-thirds of the participants were female with an average age of 31 years old. Although they were all from diverse backgrounds the majority—about 85 percent—were classical musicians.

The group was asked to fill out a questionnaire that surveyed their physical and mental health, taking into account key information regarding their lifestyle, eating habits and career. Issues surrounding perfectionism, eating disorders, depression and anxiety were addressed. The study revealed that nearly one-third (32 percent) were found to have had an eating disorder at some time in their life, with high rates of depression, anxiety and perfectionism reported.

There are a number of different factors that contribute to musicians developing eating disorders, including keeping up with a particular image to look and perform a certain way. Dr. Marianna Kapsetaki, the study’s lead author, a concert pianist and PhD researcher in neuroscience at Imperial College London, states, “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’”.

So why is this important? Dr. Gold, concludes, “Like many occupations in a fragile economy, stress to perform and to keep one’s job is a constant companion. For musicians, who are mostly self-employed, or seasonally contracted, these stressors are exasperated and often chronic. Prolonged stress is a predictor of depression and anxiety, as well as numerous physiological pathologies, including eating disorders.”

Recognizing the risks for an eating disorder is crucial to getting the help and treatment needed. If you think you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder call 844-921-3091 to speak to a Rosewood Specialist.