According to a study, musically active people have, on average, a slightly higher genetic risk for depression and bipolar disorder. This is the conclusion reached by an international research team with the participation of the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics (MPIEA) in Frankfurt am Main.
As early as 2019, the scientists had found a connection between musical commitment and psychological problems. At that time, more than 10,000 Swedes provided information about their musical activities as well as their psychological well-being. According to the publication in the journal "Scientific Reports", those who are musically active reported more frequently about depressive, burn-out or psychotic symptoms.
Since the participants were twins, the scientists were also able to take familial influences such as genes and upbringing into account. The team found that musical activity and mental health problems are unlikely to be related. "So people don't make music as a reaction to their mental health problems or the other way around," explains first author Laura Wesseldijk. "Rather, the connection can be attributed to both common genetic factors and influences of the family environment."
intersections in genetics
The scientists later expanded their research to include methods from molecular genetics. They found that there is some overlap between genetic variants that influence mental health problems and those that influence musical engagement. The results of this study have now been published in the journal "Translational Psychiatry".
The genetic connection between making music and mental health was examined using the DNA of 5648 people. The analysis showed that men and women with a higher genetic risk of depression and bipolar disorder were, on average, more likely to be musically active, practice more and perform at a higher artistic level - regardless of whether they actually had mental health problems. At the same time, participants with a higher genetic predisposition to musicality also had a slightly higher risk of developing depression - regardless of whether they actually played music or not.
"So overall, the relationship between music making and mental health is very complex," summarizes Miriam Mosing, senior author of both studies. Of course, these results do not rule out positive influences of music on mental health. Making music can certainly have a positive or even therapeutic effect on mental health.