Does music have negative effects on mental health? There’s a B-side to music you didn’t know of.
Who doesn’t like music?
If you put aside some crazy distasteful music, most of us enjoy listening to or playing music. There’s another side to the story about why people listen to certain songs.
Every tool is a weapon if used correctly; however, if you use it incorrectly, I may add. And that applies to everything else too.
Despite my passion for and daily work with playing and listening to musical instruments, I’d like to share some of the negative effects of listening to too much loud noise. It’s not something that I enjoy writing about, however I feel it’s important to share it with all.
Let’s dive in!
The Negative Effects of Music on Mental Health
1. Music can be used to create negative emotions.
Sometimes when we assess things in front of us we’re influenced by cues we’re not aware of at the moment.
That’s the case for any kind of audio content. Differently judging others’ faces because of music.
A study has found that emotional responses, such as listening to music, can influence how we perceive others’ facial expressions.
People who listened to happy music while trying to recognize other people’s emotional expressions were better at doing so than those who listened to sad music.
Happy people tend to be more perceptive to happy expressions, whereas sad people tend to be more aware of sad ones.
Happy mood = easier happy recognition
However, another study showed that even without faces, we could still judge emotions from facial expressions. We just had to be told that the person was smiling or frowning.
Listening to sad music, can make us see the world a little less bright than it actually is.
But that’s only the mild version.
When you’re always surrounded by negative emotions, distorted views of reality become commonplace. If you’re constantly in an emotionally positive state and enhanced by music at the same time, you’ll distort your perception of reality.
I know, music is just one element contributing to a darker viewpoint, but it can help keep it that way.
Aggressive thoughts due to violent songs. Imagine that those sad music videos aren’t just sad, but they also contain violent lyrics.
What can lyrics do to our worldview?
People who listen to music containing violence tend to think more aggressively than others.
People judged aggressive–ambiguous word pairs, to be more similar when listening to violent songs, than when listening to nonviolent ones.
Some of the aggressive words were “ kill, knife, choke”, while some of the ambiguous words were “ alley, animal, rock”. In other words, hearing violent songs led participants to signify ambiguous words aggressively.
After hearing violent music, listeners require less mental effort to understand aggressive language. This means that listeners get faster access to ideas conveyed by the music they’ve heard earlier.
If people become more hostile towards others, they’ll be influenced by how they feel towards others.
Think of social interactions.
If someone regularly listens to songs with violent and sexually aggressive content, they’ll be more likely to interpret interactions with a hostile tone.
This can lead to a more confrontational response (both verbal and physical) and escalate the situation to an outcome he or she will soon regret.
We shouldn’t just assume that everything we listen to is good for us. There’s a real danger that we’re putting ourselves at some sort of tangible physical or mental health risks by listening to certain kinds of music.
2—Music can increase our aggressive behavior.
From ancient times, people have used musical instruments for warfare.
Music has always had an impact on people’s emotions. Whether it was played to inspire soldiers, increase their efficiency, terrify the enemy, or torture prisoners, music has always had an influence on people’s emotions.
As far back as we know, people have been using musical instruments to incite violence. Today, however, most musicians use their songs to inspire positive emotions rather than negative ones.
A study found that listening to this type of violent rap may lead to an increase in aggressive behavior and encourage criminal activity among its listeners.
Gang groups use drill music (a subgenre of rap music) to communicate violence towards the police and other gangs.
The lyrics talk about power, masculinity, the use of illicit drugs, shootings, and even direct threats to kill rival gang members.
For instance, one of the music videos analyzed by the authors has the following lyric: “We got bells and polls in the ride if he’s from 1.9 he has to die”. For ones embedded in this environment, the song states a clear location of rival gang members they want to wipe off.
And this is just a small sampling of the violent references to Dr. Dre’s music.
Apart from promoting violence and creating a violent society, there’s another problem: taking those ideas and making them real.
Given the cultural context of this subgenre, the audience might expect rappers to do what they say in their lyrics. They can be pressured to commit those violent acts to prove their credibility to others.
This actually occurred to the rapper M-trap. He wrote about knife stabs in his lyrics and then proceeded to murder a fifteen-years old boy (along with two others).
Did he announce his plan to kill or was he trying to show off his courage by saying he meant what he said?
We can say that music makes people think about violence, but we cannot assert that there is a causal relationship between music and violence. Nevertheless, music can increase the pressure to act violently.
The law takes this quite seriously. Songs lyrics have been taken into consideration when determining whether someone has committed a crime.
To be honest, people are more biased against hip hop than any other genre. They tend to have a lot of negative associations with it, but not so much for other genres.
A study has shown that when people listen to the same words in different types of music, they find them more acceptable if they’re in another type of music.
Sexual-Aggressive Song Lyrics
A fascinating new research project examined the impact of sexually aggressive music on people’s attitudes toward women and men.
All three songs were written by different authors, so they’re not about the genre of the song but rather its content.
Participants were asked to listen to either misogynous or neutral song lyrics and then administer hot chili sauce to another participant (who were actually male and female research assistants).
The participants could choose the amount of sauce poured into the other participant’s cup and they knew that this person had to drink all its content no matter what. They were also ensured, no one will know how much content they poured into the cup.
Don’t worry, nobody was harmed in the process.
Results show that men listening to misogynist song lyrics reacted more aggressively to females than to male participants. They administered larger quantities of hot sauce. Women didn’t show this kind of behavior with men-hating lyrics (good for them!).
Furthermore, when both sexes listen to misogynist songs, they’re more likely to think of negative traits about themselves than others. When both sexes listen to anti-male songs, however, they’re more likely think of positive traits about themselves than others (e.g., “I am strong”).
We must be careful how we view others, because our views will affect how we treat them. Therefore, we must take care not to judge others before knowing their story.
3 – Music can be used to help people feel sad for an extended period of time.
After reading an interesting blog post by Elaine Mead, I decided to explore the concept behind a frequent listening experience for sad songs.
When you drown yourself in music filled with sadness and nostalgia, what will happen?
It doesn’t matter if you listen to them once or several times a week; what matters is that you keep doing so.
There is some evidence suggesting that individuals who tend to ruminate may be drawn to sad music, but they feel even worse when they listen to it.
Listening to depressing music makes people prone to getting into negative thinking patterns.
It’s like an endless loop.
Playing sad songs helps them feed themselves with negative thoughts and emotions, making them even worse. They return to the same kind of song to try to deal with their negative feelings.
A negative feedback loop.
Nevertheless, they still claim that listening to music helps them, but in reality, it makes them feel worse because they don’t realize that they dig their own grave by doing so.
Listening to music that makes you feel worse can be quite dangerous. More so if you don’t even realize that it’s bad for you.
We’re listening to a lot of music according to Nielsen Music 360, which is a comprehensive study of consumer interactions with music. On average, we spend 26.9 hrs/week listening to music.
That’s almost four hours a day!
If we pair a bad mood with too much music, we can end up having a very unpleasant experience.
Be aware of your habits and see if they’re really benefiting you. Remember that even people with depression might think it’s good for them when it’s actually making them worse.
Take a hard look at yourself and be totally honest about the impact of your daily practices on your life.
Pay attention to what you surround yourself with. Music has an impact on our lives whether we realize it or not.