Can Listening To Music In a Group Trigger People With Depression?

By David Konow 05/26/17

A new study examined the way people with depression process and emotionally bond with music in social settings. 

group of people lying on carpet and listening to music with headphones

Music, whether it’s happy or sad, has tremendous power to affect the listener, and there has always been the debate as to whether music can make someone suffering from depression feel better and help them cope with their feelings, or if it can make them feel worse.

Now, a new study has examined how music affects someone’s moods and how people emotionally react to it in groups.

As reported in Science Daily, nearly 700 people answered questions in an online survey about their listening habits, including whether they listened to music in groups or not. These participants had to answer questions about their mental states as well. Did they dwell on their depression when they were unhappy, and how much did music affect their well-being? (Participants were also asked to pick a song they would listen to when they felt sad.)

The study noted that groups which listened to sad music and talked about sad subjects made people feel more depressed, and as Science Daily reports, “This kind of group rumination was more common in younger people, and likely reflects relative importance of both music and social relationships.”

As Dr. Sandra Garrido told Science Daily, “Behaviors relating to music use fall into distinct patterns, reflecting either healthy or unhealthy thought processes. These results reveal important information about how people with depression use music. While young people with tendencies to depression who are a part of social groups may be perceived as receiving valuable social support, our results here suggest that the positive impacts of such group interactions depend on the types of processes that are taking place in the group.”

Garrido adds, “Susceptible individuals with a predilection for rumination may be most likely to suffer negative outcomes from group rumination...however, group interactions that provide social support or opportunities for processing of emotions in a constructive way have a much higher likelihood of being positive.”

It’s not surprising that sad music can have this kind of group power, because as Frontiers states, “In much the same way that expressions of emotion strengthen social bonds, music also bolsters social relationships throughout the lifespan…it creates and strengthens interpersonal relations between peers among adolescents and young adults because of the signals that one's taste in music gives about shared values. Music is thus used as an ‘identity badge’ in the formation of friendships.” 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.