Music provides entertainment and brings people together, but it may also play a role in emotional regulation. Many people listen to music to help themselves feel more upbeat or to calm down, but according to new research, certain types of music can increase anxiety. The research, from Jyväkylä, Helsinki, and Aalto Universities in Finland, suggests that music may have long-term effects on the brain. The findings may also lead to applications for music therapy in treating anxiety or mood disorders.
The participants were 123 people (68 men and 55 women), aged 18 to 55, in the Helsinki area. For the study, the participants first took a psychological test, which assessed their mental health. Next the participants listened to music taken from movie soundtracks. The researchers selected music from movies because soundtracks are written to induce emotions in listeners. The music represented emotions like happiness, sadness, and fear. The researchers noted the participants’ reactions as they listened.
The results demonstrated that men and women have significantly different neural responses to music in regards to emotional regulation. Men, in particular, exhibited increased symptoms of anxiety and neuroticism when listening to sad or aggressive music that induced negative emotions.
The results show “that there may be a correlation between listening to music that [expresses] negative feelings and having poorer mental health. Further study is needed to understand whether listening to sad or angry music causes feelings of depression and anxiety, or if having depression or anxiety causes someone to listen to angry or sad music. The true answer is probably somewhere in between,” stated study author Emliy Carlson, music therapist and researcher at the University of Jyväskylä.
This research is published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
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