Musically active people are at higher risk of mental illness
People at higher genetic risk for depression and bipolar disorder were, on average, more musically active, study finds
For years we've believed that making music is good for mental health, but a new study found that musicians seem to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders more often than musically inactive people.
An international research team involving the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics (MPIEA) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, examined in detail the relationship between making music and mental health.
They found that musically active people have, on average, a slightly higher genetic risk of depression and bipolar disorder.
In a large population study, published in Scientific Reports, scientists demonstrated a link between musical engagement and mental health problems for the first time in 2019. Approximately 10,500 Swedish participants provided information about their musical engagement and mental health.
Musically active participants were found to report more frequent depressive, burnout, and psychotic symptoms than nonmusical participants.
Musical engagement and mental health
The study participants were twins and thus family influences including the family environment during childhood could be considered.
The team found that musical engagement, such as playing an instrument or singing, and mental health problems are probably not related.
“In other words, people don't make music in response to their mental health problems or vice versa,” explains first author Laura Wesseldijk of the MPIEA.
“Rather, the link can be attributed to shared genetic factors and family environment influences.”
The scientists confirmed that the genetic variants that influence mental health problems and those that influence musical engagement overlap to some degree.
The results of this second study were recently published in the open access journal Translational Psychiatry.
The team continued to investigate and examined the genetic link between making music and mental health using the DNA of 5,648 people. In addition to genotype data, study participants provided information on their musical engagement, sporting and creative achievements, and mental health.
Analysis of the data showed that people with a higher genetic risk for depression and bipolar disorder were, on average, more musically active, practiced more, and performed at a higher artistic level.
But these associations occurred regardless of whether or not the individuals actually experienced mental health problems.