back to article Teens who listen to music a lot are at high risk of depression

In a development which confirms what many of us perhaps knew all along, research has shown that listening to music all the time as a teenager turns you into a doleful depressive (or alternatively that being a doleful depressive teenager makes you listen to music all the time). Youngsters who read, by contrast, tend to be in …


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  1. hplasm
    Thumb Up

    No Surprise-

    Anything from Simon Cowell's anus and co makes me depressed.

  2. King Edward I

    So what about me...

    Who spent most of his teenage years listening to music *whilst* reading? do the effects cancel out? SCIENCE MUST KNOW!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Indeed, when I was a teenager they were rarely mutually exclusive.

      Still aren't now I'm supposed to be a grown up.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I read while listening to music too

      That's why I'm not depressed, just crazy.

    3. CD001


      see title

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Evidence to support my findings that the damn Adel song should be banned from existance due to being wristslittingly depressing and, also, a little bit shit.

  4. Arctic fox

    I'm not bloody surprised.

    I'd be terminally depressed if I listened to the shit they listen to day in and day out............

    Shuffles off into the distance mumbling to himself "in my day ......."

    1. Ted Treen


      I wish I'd written that post.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That explains it

    I listened to a lot of pop music and read a lot in my teens - that must be why I've had depressive episodes and non-depressive episodes in my life. Nothing to do with any other influences...

    Mind you, een back then (80s), some of what passed for music was enough to make anyone feel depressed if you had prolonged exposure to it (5 Star, anyone?)

    1. Rob 9

      But, but but...

      5 Star were responsible (partly) for one of the best moments on TV, during Going Live! :)

    2. Anonymous Coward




      Adam and the Ants



      Bon Jovi/Deff Leopard/Aerosmith/Pat Benatar/Europe/Anything with big hair

      Depeche Mode (actually, only some of it)

      Culture Club/Boy George

      Rick Astley

      Kate Bush

      Shakin Stevens

      Sam Fox

      Sigue Sigue Sputnik


      Billy Idol (wonder if he's worked up to full face-grundging now)


      Soft Cell

      No, I can't take it...the memories...


      <NO CARRIER>

      1. CD001


        I quite liked Adam and the Ants (well maybe 3 songs) and Depeche Mode...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Sigue Sigue Sputnik"

        Ah yes, a band that wasn't disadvantaged with the ability to play their instruments.

        The above is a quote from someone I know that worked on their tour.

  6. Lionel Baden
    Thumb Up


    Other forms of media - movies, TV etc - have no particular effect

    So my kids wont go round killing everybody because they play video games !!!

    *phew i was under the belief from all the scientific studies they were at risk of turning into Mass murderers !!!

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Hollerith 1

      too right

      Dvorak always cheers!

      1. BingBong


        I could never get on with them ... all the right keys but just not in the right order.

        0 I C .. you meant Antonín Dvořák

        Nah, 80's electro-pop best for coding and dancing.

    2. HFoster

      Oh, give it a rest!

      A load of middle class toss, if you ask me. Classical music makes you smarter, more mentally healthy... Please! Don't get me wrong, it has its artistic merits, but I feel that the arguments that listening to classical music makes you somehow a better person is nothing more than divisive, classist, elitist hot air.

  8. Ginolard

    You know what..... REALLY depressing?

    Listening to the music now that you listened to when you were a teenager.

    a) It's pisses over the tosh that passes as music today and most of the musicians are dead (or as good as dead)

    b) It reminds me that I'm an overweight, 40-something, father-of-three and not a teenager.

    Still, new Journey album soon!

    1. anarchic-teapot


      That's a bit unfair. Some of the stuff we listened to as spotty oiks hasn't exactly passed the test of time, and there's plenty of decent talent around these days if you know where to listen for it. There's *always* been crap music on the commercial stations, and crap books on chainstore bookshelves, come to that.

      Actually, I think I've found the true cause of depression: "Participants received as many as 60 telephone calls from a trained staff member during 5 extended weekends in an 8-week period."

      It would bloody well depress me, I know that.

      Actually, just reading the presentation of the "study" sounded more like a cry for help from the perpetrators than anything else.

      1. Ted Treen

        I was a spotty oik...

        ...some 45 years ago and I accept there was an awful lot of dross around then.

        Ohio Express, 1910 Fruitgum Company, etc.

        Ye Gods! It's probably a bad sign that I remember their names.

        Maybe I shouldn't still be listening to some of my teenage likes...

        Especially Napoleon XIV...

        Beer? Well, why not?

  9. Haku

    Lies, damned lies and statistics.

    All I have to say is: Correlation does not imply causation.

    1. Studley


      Spot on.

      Teenagers are often depressed. Teenagers often listen to music.

      Don't make me haul out the pirates vs global warming graph.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Reply to post: (untitled)

        I would point out that I find it hard to read a book when I'm in an abnormal emotional state. If I'm incensed, it's hard to focus; if I'm morose, it's hard to focus; if I'm exuberant, it's hard to focus; etc. etc.. So, I'd bet there's some causation in there, just not so much as they'd like.

  10. lglethal Silver badge

    Dud science...

    They quizzed 106 adolescents, 46 of which were confirmed to be clinically depressive, and they think they can make any sort of decisive comment on that statistical basis. Ridiculous!

    Im sure i could go out tomorrow to some school and find 106 adolescents who found reading makes them more depressive! & i would strongly disagree that using a figure of 43% of adolescents being diagnosed as clinically depressed represents a good cross section for study.

    This is crap science, and until there study starts looking at thousands of students, from a variety of backgrounds and intelligence levels, & with a more realistic percentage of clinically depressed teens involved, then it will continue to be crap science. Poor form El reg for not debunking it as such...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm guessing

      I'm guessing it's America, in which case it's cool to be on meds and you're not a good parent unless you've got your kid a shrink and a good set of meds. It shows you care.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      i'm not trying to defend this study but

      according to the abstract:

      "Participants One hundred six adolescent participants who were part of a larger neurobehavioral study of depression in Pittsburgh from January 1, 2003, through December 31, 2008."

      So if they just interviewed some who are part of a larger depression study, that explains their almost 50% MDD figure.

  11. lurker


    "The study involved 106 adolescent participants"

    Terrible sample size = dire science.

    1. steward

      Maybe the researchers were listening to music

      instead of reading textbooks on correct sample sizes for statistical validity.

  12. Blofeld's Cat

    Book or iBook?

    Perhaps my reading comprehension skills are fading with age, but could Doc's paper not be summarized as:

    1) Teenagers get depressed listening to music or vis versa.

    2) Teenagers like the sort of music I hate and vis versa.

    3) Everything else may or may not be OK.

    4) Can I have another grant please.

    I shall now go back to reading "King Lear", and listening to "Tosca", to cheer myself up.

    1. Bongwater
      Dead Vulture

      King Lear!

      My mom forced me to go see that with her at a local theatre. Wasn't half bad! Normally I'd rather play League of Legends but a little culture never hurts.

      Music doesn't make you depressed, bills and women do.

      P.S. I love women so please don't murder me, they are just mean sometimes.

  13. Anonymous Coward


    Or alternatively, the music listening be a sympton of the depressive state, and book reading be a symptom of a clear and happy mind?

  14. Paul 135

    It makes sense

    Considering the lyrics to most music drone on and on about the singer's "feelings", it's no bloody wonder that having that injected into your head all the time makes people depressed.

    Take those things out of your ears, man-up, forget about your "feelings", and get on with your life!

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Ban this generic "music"!

    Did they control for different kinds of music? For instance, kids listening to emo (whatever that is or means) versus those listening to R'n'B versus rap vs dance? Back in the day my cohorts and I were bouncing around to hip-hop, rave and indie with no ill-effect, whereas those who were closeted away listening to The Cure were left miserably picking away at the hems of their long black jumpers and the EBM crowd were just very, very angry with everything. That's actually a larger sample-size.

    1. g e


      Everyone must listen to Finntroll


  16. Just Thinking

    Depends what you listen too

    I never had any problems listening to uplifting stuff like Joy Division and The Cure, or The Smiths if I really needed cheering up.

    "And so, I checked all the registered historical facts

    And I was shocked into shame to discover

    How I'm the 18th pale descendant

    Of some old queen or other"


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Rubber Ring

      Actually, this article made me think of Rubber Ring. An awesome song that sums up teenage musical obsession.

      (In my case I didn't start listening to The Smiths until I was all grown up. I was a relatively happy teen, just a little bit of death-is-inevitable sleeplessness.)

    2. BingBong

      I was looking for a job, and then I found a job

      And heaven knows I'm miserable now

      In my life

      Oh, why do I give valuable time

      To people who don't care if I live or die ?


      NOW! that's what I call music.

    3. The Flying Dutchman

      Depends what you read...

      Try something by Søren Kierkegaard. If that won't depress you, nothing will...

  17. Mage Silver badge


    The article didn't mention "trick cyclists"

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    that's a pretty low quality study, and the conclusion is rather hollow sounding.

    Does it matter what music they're listening too? I can imagine 24 hours of nirvana, Lenord Cohen and, any western pop song will make you depressed, while listening to happy music you don't hate will cheer you up (In my case, s/mileage, girl's day and, scandal fit the bill). TBH that statement is probably about as scientifically valid as this study.

    Back at school the guys that listened to music tended to be far happier than the guys that read books, as the guys listening to music had something to talk about with the girls while the guys who read books were in the library hiding from the guys who stole your pocket money.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chicken and egg...

    But which way around is it? Does listening to too much music make you overly emotional and depressed, or do people who are inherently overly emotional and suffer from depression develop a greater dependency on music to help cope with it all?

    I suspect you'll find that depressed and non-depressed people probably listen to very different types of music too, all of which is just as inevitable and understandable.

  20. The Alpha Klutz

    crack pot theory

    Music makes you want to dance, but we have a tendancy to listen to it in locations where dancing is not socially permissible (on the train etc), instead we must sit perfectly still against our natural instincts.

    Conclusion: music is a nervous system depressant.

    Although it might be more accurate to say that modern life is a nervous system depressant. How much less shit would the world be if we could dance on the train...

    1. Just Thinking


      "How much less shit would the world be if we could dance on the train."

      Getting a bloody seat would be a start.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No need ....

        If we could dance on the train, we wouldn't need (or want!) seats. Plus the journey would go faster, and you'd get some exercise at the same time. Winners all round. I vote yes. Where do I vote please? :)

      2. The Alpha Klutz

        "Getting a bloody seat would be a start."

        How about a nice game of musical chairs then? Should be mandatory on all trains.

      3. Gordon861

        Dance on a Train

        You do get some dancing on the train to music, and it seemed to cheer everyone up.

        PS Who needs a seat when you have a pole?

      4. Marcelo Rodrigues

        No, thanks

        I prefer my seat squeaky clean, thank you!

        Yes, yes. I know. Coat, door.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    It'd be interesting to know whether the figures vary depending on how (and if) the music is paid for (or pirated). It might turn out that music listening is just a proxy for being a spoilt brat. With a sample of that size they could of course make it say whatever they like.

    1. pitagora
      Thumb Down

      new study!!!

      I just made a scientific study on me and my gf. Apparently 50% of the people listen to hard rock and metal, watch only scifi movies and play Quake in their free time. The other half of the world listens to Enya and likes to talk a lot about their feelings.

      Given that both studies have a similarly badly chosen sample they have pretty much the same scientific value.

  22. Ian 56

    Correlation / causation

    "The researchers found that young people who were exposed to the most music, compared to those who listened to music the least, were 8.3 times more likely to be depressed"

    This is called correlation.

    "...research has shown that listening to music all the time as a teenager turns you into a doleful depressive"

    This is causation.

    How did you get from the first to the second please?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Music genre and intelligence

    I'm told that people who listen to heavy metal are more intelligent than people who listen to any other genre of music, apart from classical, of course.

    I once put on a CD of "The art of fugue" while driving and my 3-year-old daughter said: "Ooh, I like this one." However, I have other reasons to believe that she's probably not very musical ...

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Dear Dr

    I won't wish to pi$$ on your chips, but I'm Deaf and I suffer from major depression - think you might need to re-think your work?? Maybe I'm suffering from depression caused by music envy?

    1. Paul Shirley

      arse about tit as usual for trick cyclists

      Nope, it's just that you can't self medicate like normal teenagers.

      Teenagers are supposed to have wild mood swings, I'd worry more about the weirdo's that don't get depressed... the future cult members, psychopaths and politicians.

  25. Shane8

    mmmmm lets see

    Listing to Beethoven or watching WWE....

  26. disgruntled yank

    further anecdotal evidence

    It seems to me that I must have been a glum sort as an adolescent--at least, even professors thought I looked oddly serious. I read plenty of books, and listened to not that much music--AM radio stuff in the car, a mix of stuff elsewhere.

    As for the notion that today's music is better, I think the readers here should buy a Rhino Records album or two from back then just for the horror of it. The stuff that still gets plaid may be the best of it, but there are names I could name but for the fear that My Fellow Americans may be reading El Reg over their morning coffee and not up for the flashbacks.

  27. Code Monkey


    And watching tv turns you into an angry, greedy, self-entitled moron.

  28. JayB

    Wasn't this discussed in the movie version of High Fidelity?

    Book was better, movie wasn''t bad, but I think the line went something like

    "What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music? "

    I'm sure I can dredge some "research" up from other movies, can I have a grant please?

  29. pitagora

    study is amaturish

    The study involved 106 adolescent participants, 46 of whom were diagnosed with major depressive disorder...

    WTF? What kind of idiot make a statistic like this? The sample is good, only if almost half of the teens worldwide are depressive. Otherwise the whole study is bent.

    Doing a study on a group of depressive teens has a different meaning: the statistical conclusion they should have taken is that depressive teens don't like to read books (perhaps it's even more depresing to do so) and listen to music. Not the other way around! Basic statistics!

  30. maxillius

    I'd be depressed too...

    ...if I listened to that pop crap endlessly.

    1. John Sturdy

      Other effects

      I wonder whether it lowers their IQ, too? It seems to be optimized for mind-numbing qualities (I assume that's part of why they listen to it, particularly the depressed ones) and I reckon that having your mind numbed for years might have some cumulative effects.

      Ironic really... in "Harrison Bergeron" the intelligent are forced to listen to noises to disrupt their trains of thought and bring their intelligence down, whereas it looks like in real life it's the idiots who're doing it.

      Mine's the one with the Brandenburgs playing loud enough to drown out the crap, through headphones attached to something in the pocket.

  31. Gilbert Wham

    Wais, what?

    I was frequently ecstatically happy listening to music. Or maybe that was the ecstasy?

  32. Anonymous Coward


    I can vouch for the findings of this study. Reading '1984' swiftly followed by 'The Catcher in the Rye' certainly made me feel less depressed.

  33. Kevin 43

    Representative Sample?

    "106 adolescent participants, 46 of whom were diagnosed with major depressive disorder... "

    Is that a representative sample of all adolescents? Are 43% of all adolescents are suffering major depressive disorders, regardless of musical tastes?

  34. John I'm only dancing

    "If music be the food of love, play on"

    So said Shakespeare. This is just another scientific study with a conclusion already in place so they have made the 'results' fit the answer.

    What about those who listen to loads of music, actually create lots of music, do no reading but are completely happy.

    And what genre(s) were they listening to? If is the manufactured pap the record companies push down pre-pubescent teenagers throats to bloat their profits, now wonder they're despressed. I think I'd slit my wrists if I'd been brought up on all that crap.

  35. The Grinning Duck

    Utter piffle

    I grew up (well, I got older) listening to music pretty much all the time. I still listen to music pretty much all the time. I’m listening to it right now, in fact. All things considered, I’m a pretty happy, chirpy chappy. I also listen to music while reading, in fact I like to find the best mix of music to go with certain authors: Mars Volta and Between the Buried and Me go very nicely with the Dave Eggers and James Freys of the world, and Isis and Mouth of the Architect compliment Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds rather nicely.

    Maybe I have a special kind of depression that presents itself as, well, not being depressed? Who knows? *Cue suspenseful music…*

  36. Andrew Jones 2

    what a load of tosh.

    I both read and listened to music when I was growing up - though not at the same time - I like to get deep into a book with no distractions.

    I still (at age 29) do both.

    I know from my point of view - if I was depressed I used to listen to Savage Garden (wooooooooo) and somehow that made me less depressed.

    But I (and a lot of people I know) use music as a way of escaping - that is true - housework is much less boring with the music on and turned up - Elbow, Snow Patrol, Coldplay, Travis, Amy McDonald, Manic Street Preachers, Bruno Mars, Journey, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith - turn the volume up and really let go while doing the housework - that's amazing and leaves you feeling really alive.

    The question is - like smoking to relieve stress - is the depression caused by a lack of music to which I am essentially addicted? Is the depression caused by the silence when there is no music playing? (Maybe the participants - like me - cannot stand the silence?)

    In any case as already stated - I read as a kid, still read now - and yet am still depressed ( think people misunderestimate how much debt has to do depression ) - so maybe this research is about as useful as the one that states that everyone in their participation group ate chips as children and now have cancer - ergo Chips Cause Cancer.

    Still it would be nice if reading was a simple way to defeat depression - free Kindles on the NHS?

    In fact maybe the NHS could do a study and give everyone with depression a free Kindle and monitor the results. Mind you I suspect if that were to happen - there would suddenly be a massive spike in the number of cases of depression.

  37. Luther Blissett

    Soy un perdedor

    I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me?

  38. Tom 38

    Certain cure for depression

    2 hours of Joy Division/Smiths

    Admittedly, it's a kill or cure option, but much more of the latter than the former.

  39. 4HiMarks

    I question whether it is even the music

    Could it be the headphones/earbuds or whatever the teens use to drown out the outside world that is really to blame? Did they control for that, I wonder?

  40. John F***ing Stepp

    Well it should be depressing.

    Say you are a Wal-Mart greeter with a good singing voice and turn on the radio in your pickup truck on while going home. These people are making ten times your salary and sound like a duck being strangled by a CAT-5 cable.

    I mean; yes, I would be depressed.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    When I was a child...

    I caught a fleeting glimpse. Out of the corner of my eye.

    I turned to look but it was gone, I cannot put my finger on it now.

  42. Anteaus

    Not surprising really.

    A standard principle of brainwashing is that if you keep repeating something enough times, people will start believing it. If you listen to depressing music enough, you will eventually become depressed. Though, I would have thought that sob-story C&W would be worse in that respect than pop.

    Then again, does aggressive thrash-metal make teens violent? Maybe it does. There are enough violent yobs around these days, and no-one can offer any other explanation of why they're like that. A lot of kids of that age are into the metal scene. Connection? Now, I actually like some classic metal, but I admit that it could put a suggestible person into a very evil state of mind.

    For coding, I find that something ethereal or relaxing greatly aids my concentration. Ozrics, Tangerine Dream or Mozart, for example.

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