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Working in the Australian entertainment industry: final report

Artists Employee mental health Entertainment Performing arts Drug use Australia

This report has uncovered serious health and wellbeing concerns for those who work in the Australian entertainment and creative industries. Mental health problems, drug and alcohol use, and suicidality are prominent. Indicators of anxiety and depression symptomology are well over the general population norms; suicide ideation is 6 times greater, suicide planning is more than 4 times greater, and suicide attempts are more than double the general population.

Results indicate alcohol use and drug use for non-medical reasons are at very high levels compared to the general population -- specifically alcohol (at 11-19 standard drinks in one day) is consumed at double the rate compared to the general population intake. Meth/amphetamine use is 8 times greater, ecstasy use is 7 times greater, cocaine use is 12 times greater, marijuana use is 4 times greater, pain killers for non-medical reasons is 7 times greater and tranquillizers for non-medical reasons is 9 times greater than the general population.

Together with these results, the Australian entertainment and creative workers report that they are passionate and committed to their creativity, but they have difficulty negotiating their negative and critical work environment. While they gain social support from their family and friends (and co-workers, to an extent), they lack support from their industry. These findings strongly suggest the entertainment and cultural industry is in severe distress, and in urgent need of early prevention and intervention programs to reduce the impacts of those with health and wellbeing problems, and to prevent new occurrences.

These concerning results were gained from a survey of current workers in the entertainment and creative industry in 2015. However, there are increasing numbers of Australians who are entering cultural occupations and cultural industries who may be exposed to these risks to their health and wellbeing. Between 2006 and 2011, employment in cultural occupations for their main job increased by 9.1%. Women employed in these occupations increased by 12.8%, and males increased by 6.1%. (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Employment in Culture, Australia. Cat 6273.0, p. 4). These increasing numbers add to the urgency of designing strategies, interventions, and prevention programs to avert the possibilities of more workers experiencing these negative health and wellbeing conditions.

This report was conducted by Entertainment Assist in partnership with Victoria University, Melbourne Australia. The research project was an innovative and extensive in-depth investigation into the wellbeing of those Australians who work, create and perform in the entertainment industry – three groups were targeted: performers, performance arts support workers, and the technical operators.

In Phase 2, data was collected by an online survey with a series of extensive demographic questions, tailored questions to understand aspects of the respondents’ interactions with the entertainment industry, and established scales that measured aspects of health and mental health; healthy behaviours; and social relationships. These scales have allowed a comparison of the entertainment industry sample with the responses of the general public to these same measures. Almost 3000 people completed at least part of the survey, and a useable sample of 2407 respondents was included in the overall data analyses. This response rate was a valid representation of the population of the three groups selected for examination, that is, Group 1 performing artists and music composers, Group 2 performing arts support workers, and Group 3 broadcasting, film and recorded media equipment operators.

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