Photo credit: Benoit Toccacieli

Keyboard players are the unhealthiest music students, according to researchers.

A three-year study, completed last year, assessed 146 undergraduate music students at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, to see who were the salad-dodgers of music.

Participants filled out detailed questionnaires measuring their habits against physical activity, nutrition, stress management and spiritual fulfillment. Also included was a section for interpersonal relationships which was the ability to maintain relationships "involving a sense of intimacy and closeness". 

The report, by Clorinda R. Panebianco-Warrens, Lizelle Fletcher and Gunter Kreutz, found that keyboard players scored the worst for stress management and nutrition. The study also showed that male students in general had a worse diet than females, though both were classed as poor.

String players came top, boasting far better nutrition than singers and specialists in wind instruments and they also scored the highest in stress management, while the keyboardists were most susceptible to stress with a more negative outlook on life.

But why is this?

The report suggests one reason could be a certain instrument-weariness: "This finding could be explained by the fact that keyboard instrumentalists typically start lessons at a younger age on average and possibly accumulate more time practicing than other instrumentalists."

Poor health in musicians has been the subject of investigations since the 1980s and even inspired whole journals on the topic, such as the Journal of Medical Problems of Performing Artists.

But it's not all gloom and doom. Despite the low scores in health responsibility, physical activity, stress management, and nutrition, according to the report "music students generally report positive psychosocial behavior in higher scores for spiritual growth, interpersonal relations, self-efficacy, and self-regulation."

They may be committed to burgers and chips and susceptible to stress, but basically musicians are a sociable bunch.