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Sources of occupational stress among the military musicians of the Royal Air Force
  1. Dermott Davison
  1. Station Medical Centre, RAF Northolt, Ruislip, HA4 6NG, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dermott Davison, RAF Northolt, Ruislip, HA4 6NG, UK; dermott.davison101{at}


Introduction Occupational stress has been studied in the military and among professional musicians but not yet among military musicians. We may speculate that military musicians are subject to military occupational stresses as well as those of the professional musician, but we do not know what the stresses of the role actually are. This study is the first to identify sources of occupational stress and measure the prevalence of music performance anxiety (MPA) among a group of military musicians.

Methods Volunteer musicians were recruited from the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Music Services and invited to take part in an anonymous online survey that captured demographic information, incorporated the Kenny Music Performance Anxiety Inventory (K-MPAI) and asked an open, free-text question: ‘Thinking about your occupation as an RAF Musician, what causes you to feel stressed?’. Quantitative data were analysed using SPSS. Qualitative data were coded, collated and analysed for themes.

Results 57 musicians (38% of those eligible) completed the survey. A prevalence of 46% for significant MPA was found. Females scored significantly higher than males. Other stressors were time constraints, the negative judgement of others, musical and military challenges, tensions between musical and military values, issues relating to promotion and existential concerns.

Conclusions Military musicians share MPA, career development stressors and conflicts between career and social life as sources of occupational stress with their civilian colleagues. Military stressors include being posted/deployed or compulsory fitness testing. The hierarchical structure of the military brings additional stress when rank and promotion may not be talent based.

  • mental health
  • occupational & industrial medicine
  • primary care

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Original data are available from the author on reasonable request in writing.

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Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Original data are available from the author on reasonable request in writing.

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  • Contributors The study was conceived, designed and undertaken by the author as part of an MSc in Performing Arts Medicine from University College London (UCL). Data collection was via an anonymous online survey using SurveyMonkey. Data analysis and interpretation was undertaken by the author with stats supervision from a UCL statistician. The article was written by the author and required minor revisions following review by the JRAMC.

  • Funding This study was self-funded.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.