A study has shown listening to heavy extreme kinds of music, including heavy metal, helps purge emotions such as anger and even depression.
Leah Sharman from the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology is researching the impact of music on society. “I was wondering how people use this music because people who listen to it would use it in different emotional states,” Ms. Sharman said. She said a study conducted of 39 adults between the ages of 18 and 34 found they were inspired and calmer when they listened to heavy metal.
Ms. Sharman said the respondent’s levels of hostility, irritability and stress decreased after listening to heavy metal or extreme music. “We found the music regulated sadness and enhanced positive emotions.” She said, adding that “When you’re angry and you listen to something that’s highly arousing, it’s going to match your emotional state.”
Not naive to the many others who have claimed this before her, Ms. Sharman acknowledges that “Certainly lots of people out there are screaming from rooftops, saying I’ve been telling you this all along,” she said. “People have been saying it makes me feel really good, it helps me calm down, it makes me relax.”
Ms. Sharman said the study does not follow suit and even refutes previous research which found a correlation between people who enjoy heavy metal and higher levels of anxiety and depression.
“We can’t really say that it’s because they’re listening to this type of music,” she said. “People’s moods create a desire for a certain type of music. A lot of people when they’re sad will listen to music to fully experience their sadness. When I’m sad I don’t want to listen to Happy by Pharrell, I want to listen to something sad, something that understands me. It’s about connecting to the music that way.”
Ms. Sharman said study participants spent 16 minutes in an ‘anger induction’ where they described relationships, employment and financial issues that upset them. This was followed by the participants spending 10 minutes listening to songs of their choice followed by 10 minutes of silence. Half of the participants chose songs that contained themes of anger or aggression with the remainder choosing songs about isolation and sadness.
“All of the responses indicated that extreme music listeners appear to use their choice of music for positive self-regulatory purposes,” she said. “No matter what kind of music you like, as long as that’s something that you enjoy and helps you, definitely use that music. Turn it up, sing along to it, make yourself feel better.”
The study was published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.