(BBC News School Report) What impact does music have on your mental health?

(Reported by Honey Clark, Year 9)

Music can be hard, rocky and loud or classical and calming. But is what you are listening to changing the way you feel emotionally? Artists such as Sam Smith have the ability to make us cry whereas other musicians such as Beastie Boys make us want to break the rules and party. Recent research from a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, indicate that the type of music you listen to is likely to influence how you feel inside and mentally. The studies also show that listening to depressing songs could make you more likely to develop signs of anxiety and depression.

Bands such as Green Day have had a drastic impact on punk rock music for the last three decades as they write songs about serious topics. Their rebellious nature means they do not make the subjects any softer to please listeners but instead approach politics with honesty and directness. Their own unique pop-punk style and sound is still evident in their newest album called Revolution Radio, which tackles difficult subjects such as war. Upon release, the album was immediately a hit with both fans who have liked the band since the mid-eighties and newer fans. The lyrics tell narratives that are relatable to people all over the world as its focus on global issues such as terrorism in the song titled Troubled Times reminds us that we are all going through it together.

However, some of the lyrics are rather controversial, especially given the young ages of many of their fans. Should young people be listening to these songs?  Recent studies have highlighted that depending what kind of music you listen to can determine the state of your mental health. Music therapists use music to change the way their clients think and feel. This shows us that perhaps bands like Green Day with impressionable young listeners have a greater responsibility to bear than we might first think.

Another study conducted at Jyväskylä, Helsinki and Aalto Universities in Finland assessed people on their current mental health and their self-confidence then looked at what kind of music they listened to on a regular basis. There was a strong correlation between those who listen to aggressive or angry music and those who suffer from mild anxiety. Sad music listeners showed signs of depression. These signs stood out particularly in male members who took part in the study as their brains were more stimulated by the music. The conclusion they came to was that listening to negative music may lead to the experience of negative feelings.

Listening to too much sad music may worsen mental health issues. However, many would argue that it is not good to only listen to happy pop music – music is an expression of feeling, and we should be free to express whatever emotions we like. This can be a liberating experience in itself, so perhaps listening to a balanced diet of music is what we need to regulate our moods in the long term.