When you listen to sad songs by artists like Elliott Smith, Sufjan Stevens, or Lana Del Rey, does it really make you feel better? According to studies recently published on Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, people who frequently listen to sad or aggressive music are more likely to experience higher levels of anxiety or neuroticism than those tuned in to happier selections. Participants in the study were required to listen to happy, sad, or fearful sounding music in order to test their neural activity. The results were compared to signs of mental health that indicated for things like anxiety, neuroticism, and depression.
Professor Elvira Brattico, the senior author of the study, stated that the results "show a link between music-listening styles and mPFC activation, which could mean that certain listening styles have long-term effects on the brain." (I literally celebrate Sad Girl Saturday every weekend and listen to my designated ":-(" playlist on loop, so I'm pretty bummed to find out that I've actually been the cause of my dark mental state after all this time.)
“Some ways of coping with negative emotion, such as rumination, which means continually thinking over negative things, are linked to poor mental health. We wanted to learn whether there could be similar negative effects of some styles of music listening,” added co-author and music therapist Emily Carlson. “[We hope our work] encourages everyone to think about how the different ways they use music might help or harm their own well-being.”
Next time you catch yourself reaching for Drake's Take Care, you might want to resist the urge to press play. It might not be worth the additional pain.