Does your teen prefer books or music? Their answer may say something about their mental health. According to a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, depressed teenagers who favor music over books are more likely to be depressed.
So, what’s the relationship between music and teenage depression?
Do depressed teens listen to music more?
Researchers used a special technique called ecological momentary assessment to look at the link between music and depression in 106 teens, some of whom had a diagnosis of major depression. This method involved calling teens many times over a two month period to find out what they were reading, if they were listening to music or whether they were on the internet. This type of questioning in real-time is more accurate than using surveys that depend on recall.
What did they find? Teens who spent the most time listening to music were more than 8 times more likely to be depressed, whereas teens who read books were a tenth less likely to be depressed. Reading other forms of media such as newspapers, magazines or reading on the internet weren’t linked with the risk of depression.
Do depressed teens turn to music as an escape?
The link between music and teenage depression is intriguing, but it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions based on one study. Do depressed teens turn to music as an escape from their unhappiness, or does the music itself cause depression? Likewise, are emotionally healthy teens more likely to read, or does reading actually boost mental health? Does the type of music or reading material influence depressive symptoms? More research is needed to determine the relationship between teen depression, music and reading.
The dark side of teen depression
Still, teenage depression is on the rise. About one in five teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood — and most will deal with it more than once. The incidence may be particularly high in kids who have other family members who suffered from depression. At best, severe depression can interfere with a teen’s school performance and social life. At worst, it can lead to suicide.
If you’re a parent, don’t ignore the signs of teenage depression. Encourage your teen to talk about their concerns, and don’t let them escape by putting on headphones and listening to music.