How Music Listening Habits Affects Mental Health

Dog listening to music

The Centre for Interdisciplinary Music Research at the University of Jyväskylä, Aalto University in Finland and Aarhus University in Denmark conducted a study to try and understand if there’s a link between music listening habits, mental health and neural responses to the different types of musics through a combination of behavioural and neuroimaging data.

The premise was trying to find out if musical habits are anything like Rumination, the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions. It’s a way of coping with negative emotion that had been linked to poor mental health. The researchers tried to figure out whether listening to certain styles of music could have a similar negative effect on a person’s mental health.

The 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. The data was analyzed, and researchers found out that those listening to sad or aggressive music were more anxious or neurotic, which particularly stood out among the male participants in the study. The conclusion was that listening to negative music results in the expression of these negative feelings, but it doesn’t get you in a better mood.

The scientists also recorded neural activity with an fMRI while the people were listening to music that was happy, sad and fearful. Females listening to music in order to distract them from negative feelings showed increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex while males doing the same had less activity in the mPFC.

Why is this relevant? 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. It means that certain genres of music can have a long lasting effect on the brain and mental health overall.

I wonder what listening to the same songs again and again while attending a basketball or football game does to one’s mind.

Image: Source / The study was published the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.