Music can have tremendous power over emotions, but listening to sad or aggressive music to improve the mood can backfire, suggests new research.
With the help of brain imaging, the researchers looked at how neural responses to different types of music really affect the emotion regulation of persons.
“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,” said main author of the study Emily Carlson from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland.
Participants were assessed on several markers of mental health including depression, anxiety and neuroticism, and reported the ways they most often listened to music to regulate their emotions.
Analysis showed that anxiety and neuroticism were higher in participants who tended to listen to sad or aggressive music to express negative feelings, particularly in males.
“This style of listening results in the feeling of expression of negative feelings, not necessarily improving the negative mood,” co-author of the study Suvi Saarikallio from the University of Jyvaskyla said.