Teen Music Listening Linked to Depression

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After a hard day, it's easy to take refuge in your favorite musical artist. But for teens, frequent music listening might be tied to a more serious case of the blues, according to new research.

In a study featured in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, researchers found an association between major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, and increased music listening among 106 preteens and teens.

To map media use among the group, the research team used one-way cell phones to call subjects at various times during weekends. Of the group, 46 teens had already been diagnosed with depression and were receiving treatment.

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By answering questions over the phone, teens reported in real time whether they were using the Internet, watching TV or movies, listening to music, playing video games, or reading print material such as a magazine or book.

After gathering data on each teen's activities for five weeks, the researchers found a relationship between music listening and depression — individuals with depression were more likely to be immersed in music over other forms of media .

On average, the researchers also found that teens who read books were less likely to be depressed.

Determining why teens living with depression might prefer music isn't exactly clear. Scientists think the positive and negative effects of music may influence this trend. For instance, teens may seek happy and uplifting music when they're feeling down, or they might favor sad music that gives them comfort in others' sadness.

In addition, the research group doesn't know whether depressed teens' reliance on music is a circular problem. Are they more drawn to music, or does some music make teens more depressed?

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Avoidance of reading begs a similar question — does reading stave off depression in teens, or do depressed teens abstain from the activity intentionally? Previous research supports the idea that teens with depression avoid cognitively intense activities and opt for low-intensity ones, such as watching TV or listening to music, instead, the authors write.

The team also says its research needs to be replicated before being generalized to include all teens, especially because the subjects were handpicked for this specific study.

Understanding how people cope with depression or even whether exposure to certain media makes it worse may help create better treatment for teens and the 20 million adults living with the condition in the United States.

Photo: Matt Browne/Flickr.com