Monday, January 14, 2008

Is rock music dangerous?

Last Saturday the first edition of Noorderslag Science was held, during a sold-out Noorderslag in Groningen, NL. Noorderslag Science is a seminar on pop music, the music industry and related topics (such as music cognition) that gives researchers an opportunity to present their work to a wide audience.

ResearchBlogging.orgTom ter Bogt (professor of popular music at the University of Utrecht), with whom I co-organized the event, presented work on fame and (early) death in pop music. Next to a review of the empirical work of e.g. Mark Bellis (“pop artists die younger”), he presented his own research on the question whether Gothic rock has a (bad) effect on adolescent behavior.*

Based on large dataset on adolescents’ musical taste, he found a correlation between the liking of Gothic Rock and suicidal thoughts (up to ten percent of the group interviewed). Interestingly, a similar effect was shown for several other genres as well, suggesting that music —in general— is more appreciated in this particular age period.

While the relation is correlational and not causal, it suggests that without music these episodes of depressive thought might be far more dangerous for these adolescents (since the actual suicide rate is, luckily, far below the ten percent mentioned above). A striking example of the importance of music and its comforting role, in this case —apparently— a fact of life and death.

* Mulder, J., Bogt, T.t., Raaijmakers, Q., Vollebergh, W. (2007). Music Taste Groups and Problem Behavior. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36(3), 313-324. DOI: 10.1007/s10964-006-9090-1


  1. I´ve been reading you blog for quite a while, and I must express my concern over that last paragraph...

    Here's an idea for a quick research: make an statistical analysis of the most common words contained in the lyrics of the songs. You'll find that death, pain, darkness, etc. are the most common in goth (just as sex, drugs & crime are the most common themes in hip-hop). I think teens are biased to have recurrent thoughts about the themes present in the music they hear. The important thing is keeping the relational correlational... we don't want black-metal kids burning churches anymore, as it happened in Norway a decade ago.

    Kind regards

  2. Another, perhaps simpler, explanation would be that those who belong to a subculture that approves of suicidal thoughts are more likely to recall/admit to having had such.

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