Music and Mood Regulation
By Nethra Koushik
For many, your teenage years are when you begin to explore your interests. Some indulge in sports, others in poetry and reading. But one thing that remains common among all teens is music. During the turbulent times of one’s teenage years, music becomes a kind of solace. It has the ability to influence one’s emotions and how one sees the world. This correlation between music and mood regulation in teens has therefore become a great area of interest for many scientists.
Researcher Jada Adams conducted a study researching the correlation between the amount of music teenagers listen to and their mental health symptoms. Over the course of three weeks, participants were asked to fill out a shortened version of the depression, anxiety, and stress scale (DASS21) survey where the stress-related questions were removed. They were also asked to approximate how often and how long they listen to music. Furthermore, participants filled out the brief music and mood regulation (BMMR) survey at the end of the final week, which was divided into seven subscales.
Using these questionnaires, Adams tested out two hypotheses: whether those with more mental health issues use music as a mood regulator less effectively, and whether there is a relationship between how often someone listens to different amounts and frequencies of music and mental health symptoms.
While this study shed much light on this topic, it was not without problems. If the first hypothesis was correct, we should have seen lower BMMR scores. However, Adams found the exact opposite— a positive correlation between lower depression and anxiety scores and higher BMMR scores. The second hypothesis was only partially supported as participants with anxiety tended to listen to more music, while no correlation was displayed between depression and the amount of music participants listened to. With these results, Adams was able to conclude that healthier people were more likely to use music for mood regulation effectively and that people with anxiety listened to more music than people with depression.
These inconsistencies between what was hypothesized and the results could be because of a number of reasons. One main issue with the study was caused by COVID-19. Due to the pandemic, the study had to be conducted online, which led to the sample size being smaller than expected as many people who were sent the survey did not respond. In a post-pandemic era, a similar study could be conducted where the participants are studied in controlled, laboratory settings, and the sample size would likely be larger. Another limitation was that the survey was done over a small age range. While this may be appropriate because the study was specific to adolescents, it is not indicative of how the general population with mental health symptoms uses music to cope. Moreover, since questions about stress-related symptoms were removed from the DASS21, researchers were unable to get an accurate reading of the mental health symptoms of many participants. This could have been the reason that participants were seen to have stronger mental health than they might actually have. Researchers recommend that, in future studies, there are more questions included to determine how and when participants listen to music and any other mental health issues they may have.
Cover Image Credit: DAVID SENIOR
Source: Musical Intervals Sway Moods – Scientific American
Adams, Jada. The Use of Music in Mood Regulations for Teens. Math Senior Seminar. May 2021