Depressive symptomatology and lifelong music experience: a cross-sectional study
Asselstine, Jennifer M.
Master of Health Sciences
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Depression is a serious mental health disorder, with enormous costs to individuals and society. According to the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey, approximately 1.9 million Canadians have reported a major depressive episode within the last twelve months.1 While alarming, this figure does not capture the level of subclinical depression (or depressive symptomatology) in the Canadian population. Some estimates have suggested that the prevalence of subclinical depression is much higher, at 22%. 2 Hence, factors that mediate or prevent the development of subclinical depression are of interest. Music therapy has been shown to reduce feelings of depression in elderly patients, but it is unclear what the effect of playing music as a hobby may have on the development of depression. 3-11 Some research has suggested that musicians may suffer from a disproportionate amount of mental health disorders when compared to their non-musical counterparts. 12-14 Music is frequently used as a way to reduce stress, and it is possible that individuals with serious mental health disorders (MHD) turn to music as a means of escape. 15-17 While several studies have suggested that professional musicians have higher levels of depression than their non-musical counterparts, this research has been conducted in musical professionals alone. 12-14 No study has evaluated the potential relationship between playing music as a hobby and the development of subclinical depression in university students. Based on studies regarding music therapy, it is highly plausible that music may offer a significant means by which to reduce the presence of depressive symptomatology. Further study on the impact of musicianship on the development of mood disorders is warranted. A cross-sectional survey was used to pose questions to a group of university students regarding their experience playing a musical instrument over their lifetime and depressive symptomatology. Within the musician cohort, a further investigation was conducted into the relationship between improvisational ability and presence of mental health disorders. Additional information regarding potential confounding variables was also captured in the survey. Music has been shown to possess therapeutic qualities in certain demographics, but its association with depressive symptoms in average university students is unknown. 3-11, 18-21 Exploring this association will help to direct larger studies, and will allow us to hypothesize potential roles of music in relation to subclinical depression. Short-term mood-boosting effects of music have been widely reported in the literature; however, these findings are often studied in a therapeutic context, and not treated as a lifelong exposure.3-11, 18-21 This study is the first of its kind to employ a cross-sectional survey to ascertain different levels of musical exposure, as well as the musician’s improvisatory capabilities. This study attempts to take a sample of average Canadian students and explore the potential relationship between lifelong music exposure and depressive symptomology.