A new study from the Centre for Performance Science has revealed that classical musicians score higher on important wellbeing elements when compared with the general population. A sample of 601 professional musicians from 41 countries answered a questionnaire based on the PERMA wellbeing model. This model includes five building blocks of wellbeing: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment.
Musicians scored higher than general population samples on Positive Emotion, Relationships and, in particular, Meaning, which in this model is a sense of purpose and serving something larger than the self. The findings shed light on a pervasive issue in musicians’ health research: the lack of a common language about what wellbeing really means. While the World Health Organization is clear on how health and wellbeing are defined positively, most research with performing artists has focused on assessing anxiety, depression, and stress. When wellbeing is evaluated as the presence of positive indicators of functioning, and not merely the absence of illbeing, musicians show promising profiles.
Study author and CPS doctoral candidate Sara Ascenso remarked: “This is the first time we have profiled wellbeing from a positive perspective with a large sample of professional musicians. The reconciliation between our results and the body of research pointing to the music profession as highly challenging begs for further reflection. When it comes to wellbeing, which is a positive construct, are we really asking the right questions?”
The findings of the study provide a more complete picture of how musicians experience wellbeing and can inform the development of new health and wellbeing support initiatives within both music education and the profession.