Study documents arts workers’ health woes

The stereotype of the struggling artist living in a garret may not be too far off the mark according to new research from Griffith University.

Griffith Film and Television Production convenor Nicholas Oughton surveyed 602 members of a state-wide arts organisation who live and work in many areas of Queensland.

His study found that 80 per cent of Queensland arts workers suffer poorer health than the rest of the general population.

Forty-eight per cent reported suffering from anxiety and tension with other complaints including headaches, muscular pain, lower back pain, hay fever, indigestion, skin complaints and insomnia.

Reasons cited for poor health included economic instability, the use of dyes and other toxic materials, poor working conditions, lack of regular employment, low incomes and a lack of professional recognition and low self-esteem.

The participants, both professional and semi-professional, included performance artists, musicians, dancers, actors, painters, designers, illustrators and multi-media artists who reported ill-health symptoms experiences on a regular basis.

“The creative industries add about $11 billion to the value of all goods and services in Australia, generate $800 million in exports, and employ approximately 190,000 arts workers, with an annual industry growth of 2.62 per cent,” Mr Oughton said.

“Despite this, society has developed an archetypical view, a mythology of what artists are, how they should perform and what their role is in the community.

“There may be a perception that artists are generally irresponsible and tend to indulge in their fantasies rather than deal with the ‘real’ world, that artists should suffer for their work and high art is often the product of deprivation, conflict and discomfort.

“These perceptions, together with a lack of professional recognition and self-worth, may be shaping arts workers’ health behaviour.”

MEDIA CONTACTS: Arts and Education Communications Officer Deborah Marshall 07 3735 5245, 0408 727 734