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Subjective Health Complaints, Stress, and Coping in Orchestra Musicians

Helene Barone Halleland, Anette Harris, Silje Sørnes, Robert Murison, Holger Ursin
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 24 Number 2: Page 58 (June 2009)

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Abstract: The job of an orchestra musician is characterized by high demands and low control, which is a combination known to predispose to ill health. Research also indicates that musicians have high levels of subjective health complaints, complaints with limited or no objective findings. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between subjective health complaints, stress, and coping in musicians. Thirty-five musicians in the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra filled in questionnaires about work, subjective health complaints, and coping. Saliva samples were collected to measure cortisol levels. The levels of subjective health complaints compared well with normative data from a representative sample of Norwegians, except for an unusually high level of "pseudoneurological" complaints (fatigue, mood changes). High levels of cortisol were positively related to the total number of subjective health complaints, gastrointestinal complaints, and pseudoneurology but not to musculoskeletal complaints. A high level of "emotion-focused coping" was associated with higher cortisol levels. Samples obtained during a concert showed a moderate but significant rise in cortisol levels.

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