Heavy metal music combats emotions like depression, anger, study finds

A study has shown listening to heavy metal or extreme kinds of music helps purge emotions like anger and depression.

Leah Sharman from the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology is researching the impact of music on society.

She said a study of 39 adults aged between 18 and 34 found they were inspired and calmer when they listened to heavy metal.

“I was wondering how people use this music, because people who listen to it would use it in different emotional states,” Ms Sharman said.

“We found the music regulated sadness and enhanced positive emotions. 

“When you’re angry and you listen to something that’s highly arousing, it’s going to match your emotional state.”

Ms Sharman said the respondent’s levels of hostility, irritability and stress decreased after listening to heavy metal or extreme music.

“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 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 relationship, employment and financial issues that upset them. 

They then spent 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.” 

While the majority – 74 per cent – of participants were Australian-born, the remainder were born in Oman, Sweden, Indonesia, South Africa, New Caledonia, New Zealand and the USA.

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