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The Music That You are Listening to is Impacting Your Mental Health

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How you regulate your emotions is one of the most important factors of your mental health; clinical music therapists have long known about the power of music on human emotions. Music therapists use music in their sessions to improve their clients’ mood, and even to help them relieve symptoms of mood disorders like depression. But people listen to music every day, and there was not much known about how their music listening habits affected their mental health.

A study conducted at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Music Research at the University of Jyväskylä, Aalto University in Finland and Aarhus University in Denmark was done to establish the link between your music listening habits, your mental health and your neural responses to the different types of music through a combination of behavioural and neuroimaging data.

Rumination – continually brooding over negative things –  as a way of coping with negative emotion, has been linked to poor mental health. The scientists wanted to find out if listening to certain styles of music could have a similar negative effect on a persons mental health.

Study participants were first assessed on their mental health markers like depression, anxiety and neuroticism and were asked on how they usually listen to the music to regulate their emotions. After their data was analysed, researchers found out that people who usually listened to sad or aggressive music were more anxious and neurotic. This stood out particularly in the male members of the study participants. The researchers came to the conclusion that listening to negative music results in the expression of these negative feelings, but it doesn’t get you in a better mood. So they decided to investigate what the brain’s unconscious emotion regulation will show, and recorded the participants’ neural activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they were listening to music that was happy, sad and fearful sounding.


mPFC area in general linear model analysis showed significant activity on neural activation during music listening (Image credits: University of Helsinki/B.Bogert)

Females who listened to the music to distract them from negative feelings showed increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), while males listening to the music with negative feelings had less activity in the mPFC. This is relevant because the mPFC is active during emotion regulation and study shows the link between certain styles of music and the activation of the medial prefrontal cortex. This could mean that some styles of music can have a long lasting effect on the brain and mental health overall.

The study was published the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

About the author

Dean Smith

  • Adam Selene

    “After their data was analysed researchers found out that people who usually listened to sad or aggressive music were more anxious and neurotic. This particularly stood out in the male portion of the study participants. The researchers came to the conclusion that listening to negative music results in the expression of these negative feelings,”

    It’s not 100% clear from these words whether the researchers came to the conclusion that listening to “negative” music *causes* negative feelings. If they did, then the article should explain how the researchers decided that music causes negative feelings, and not that people with negative feelings are drawn to listen to negative music, possibly as a catharsis for their negative feelings.

    It is *possible* I suppose that consuming negative media traps people in a cycle of negativity. But I’d want to see some more comprehensive evidence before I came to that conclusion.

    As worded, this sounds worryingly close to “want to stop feeling depressed? Make the choice to stop feeling depressed!” Don’t worry, be happy!

    • Koufeto

      It’s as you said: 1) Get dumped by a girl 2) Listen to fitting music 3) Emotions get prolonged.

      My friend is heartbroken for the last months and when he listens to fitting music for him I feel absolutely nothing because I cannot even relate to the lyrics. In fact, I try to cheer him up by pretending to be the goofy singer or w/e comes in my head at that moment. But I’m far from feeling sad or heartbroken by being exposed to his moody music for at least 5 hours a day, 5 days a week.

    • jim watyty

      Or just don’t wallow in your own depression and listen to depressing music, but I guess that makes too much sense for people

    • They should have checked a bit more whether the participants were feeling this way before they started listening to negative music.

      Personally i think that negative music is a catharsis for negative feelings. A way to identify with those feelings in a positive way.

      Listening to someone who feels the same, but has been through it enough to write about it.

      • Autism Specilist

        If you read the actual article you can see that they did. It is in the 4th paragraph.

    • Jay

      Well, you have to understand, this was just one study, and not a very good one. We all know that music and emotions correlate with each other somehow, that’s just common sense. Here’s the text of the actual study, but it doesn’t conclude much more than is reported here, because frankly, this study was just a sample of the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this type of phenomenon.


    • Autism Specilist

      I think the fact that they subjected the people to negative music and not studied a sad person in their natural sad environment suggests that this is not an association study.

    • Cyanide03

      The article implies correlation, and nothing more. The researchers claim nothing but a mild correlation between these things. The article takes quite a few liberties from there. It’s a preliminary study is all. Don’t have to get worked up about some kind of weird social agenda.

  • brantc

    Here this will help you feel better!!!!
    3 Hours of Female DubStep….


    • mkhgmjgh

      oh fuck off

      • brantc

        OH I can tell who had a bad day and didnt get laid…

    • jim watyty

      Listened to it for 10 minutes, it gave me crippling autism, is this supposed to happen?

      • Autism Specilist

        No, you probably always had autism and this comment suggests just that.

      • brantc

        LOL!!! I dont think sooooo

  • geohump

    One of the worst written articles I have seen recently. Clear as mud.

  • SkymovesSideways

    The most poignant emotional reaction I get from music, beyond simple appreciation, is associations with experiences. When I hear Judith by A Perfect Circle I think of my mother’s abusive relationships with men, about my friend crying in front of me for her cheating boyfriend; and how repulsed I feel that they can’t leave these careless people behind. When I hear Separator by Radiohead I remember dropping acid on a mountain and feeling elated.
    That being said; I don’t understand how a study of this nature can make absolutely no mention of the relevance of experience; nor do I understand what’s meant by the phrase negative music. Happy sounding music (with few exceptions, like the Kinks) has always had a rather negative effect on me. Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles, for instance, usually means some horrible shit’s about to happen.

    • Cyanide03

      It’s because this is a preliminary study. The journal article concludes a mild correlation between the type of music listened to and general mental disorder. Correlation does not imply causation, the article here takes quite a few liberties on that front.

  • kid_you_not

    Ever notice there is no happy music any more? There seemed to be a concerted effort to demean such music since the 1970’s or so.

  • kid_you_not

    Does this explain the existence of wiggers? LOL!

  • Gable

    Sad music makes you sad; happy music makes you happy. Genius study, guys.

  • Br00talK1d

    oh, this explains why I am a psychopath, it’s probably due to death metal and its lyrics kek

    • fucknigga3

      it explains why you are a faggot tho

  • I’d rather listen to thoughtful honest music even if some of it’s, well, thoughtful and honest, than listen to fake smile music. Isn’t there some study out there that prove people who go around fake smiling end up with worse mid life crisis than the people who don’t bottle up reality?

  • BethAnn3

    They release this just as Adele puts out a new album. Can’t stand her voice or her music. And she gets played a lot in supemarkets and restaurants, so you can’t avoid her Debbie Downer music.

  • The article said people who listened to sad or aggressive music or more anxious or neurotic. The researchers concluded the music cause the negative feelings.