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Can Metal Music Be Good For Your Health?

Posted by on April 24, 2018 at 9:55 am

Photo by Thibault Trillet, CC0 Creative Commons

It’s probably the most misjudged music genre there is, but science is changing all that.

Most people think metal music fans are violent, melancholic and bad-tempered. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s not all about devil worshipping, skulls and bones and jumping headfirst into live music crowds. In fact, scientific studies over the years have proven the opposite of all the misinterpretation going on about the metal music community.

So, why does the metal genre face such highly skewed judgment from the public?

Psychologists have identified one possible source is the media’s broken characterization of the community, allowing for unfit generalizations to arise. And back in the 80s, there were even politically motivated campaigns trying to prove a link between metal and its corrosive values to the youth listening to it.

Look at proponents of the genre like Marilyn Manson and Ozzy Osbourne who have brought out a more theatrical, attention-seeking side to the masses or even with commercial heavy rock bands like Guns N’ Roses who’s image became so prevalent that there’s even a game named after the band. Popular rockers use metal imagery to their advantage, which allows people to make oversimplified assumptions of the genre.

Several studies over the last 10 years have alluded to a different portrayal altogether of its listeners. For example, in 2015 at the University of Queensland, honors student Leah Sharman and psychologist Dr. Genevieve Dingle gathered 39 listeners of metal music all aged between 18 and 34. They asked the group to listen to 10 minutes of music ranging from screamo to emo after recalling a bad experience that they had been through. They revealed some surprising results: That the music had lulling effects on its listeners rather than agitating them. They all felt a lot calmer after listening to the music.

Psychologists behind the study theorized that the listeners were using this music to process their emotions rather than exacerbate them. In a press release at the time, the psychologist, Dr. Genevieve Dingle said that the music helped regulate sadness and amplify positive emotions, acting as a type of catharsis.

A newer study initiated back in February of this year by Australian psychologists Paula Rowe and Bernard Guerin found that metal music was helpful to its listeners and their overall health.

In another study titled Contextualizing the Mental Health of Metal Youth, a small sample group of men and women aged between 18 and 24 were analyzed for their listening habits and its correlation to the way they act. Consistent with previous findings, this study found that participants were more open and able to identify with their emotions using metal music, which led the psychologists to believe that a type of informal therapy was taking place.

Furthermore, when conversations with the younger listeners were monitored, they found that they all agreed on the power of the unified listening experience and how it brought them closer together. This is nothing new as several studies over the years have shown that listening or performing music together can increase pain thresholds by releasing more dopamine into the brain, strengthening socials bonds.

Some had been bullied and felt that metal allowed them to fit into a community without being judged. Overall, the psychologists found that metal communities were able to make listeners feel included and not marginalized in their lives.

Even further, metal fans have even been found to be more intelligent than the average music listener. In fact, a study presented by Stuart Cadwallader, a psychologist from the University of Warwick, in 2007, showed that of 120,000 students from the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth in the U.K., which represents the top five percent of academic achievers, their favorite music to listen to was metal. He also found that a lot of students were using this type of music to vent frustration and anger, especially when feelings of alienation and isolation were present.

Moreover, similarities between classical music listeners and metal fans have been proven, showing that both groups exemplified creativity, gentleness and an ease with themselves.

All this leads us to one conclusion. Assumptions made about minorities or various genre groups in music lead to stereotypes. In the case of metal music, there are plenty of examples above to demonstrate that just because people wear long sleeve shirts and makeup or listen to loud music, it doesn’t make them any different from you or me. And now we have the science to back that up for us.

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