Connection Between Pop Music and Depression

Earlier this month USNews.com posted an article with some fascinating findings about the connection between pop music and depression.

I encourage you to check out the entire article, but here’s just a snippet:

…in terms of media exposure, the more they (children) listened to music (via MP3 or CD players), the greater the likelihood of having major depressive disorder.

When the researchers divided media exposure into four levels, ranging from least to most exposure, they found each increasing level of music exposure was associated with an 80 percent increase in depression risk.

In contrast, exposure to print media was linked to a lower risk for depression. With each increasing level of exposure to print media, depression risk dropped by 50 percent.

TV, Internet, and video game exposure was not found to have a statistically significant association with depression risk one way or the other.

You can read the entire article HERE for context.

One thing I really like about the article is the fact that they acknowledge the chicken or the egg dilemma (my wording) with this kind of study. In other words, are songs making kids depressed, or are depressed kids listening to more music to cope? The article basically contends, we don’t know which… but there’s a noticeable connection.

As a guy who has three teenagers of his own, works with junior high students, and studies pop culture for a living, here’s my own observations:

1. Music affects our kids way more than they think. If you’ve read my blog for even a few months, you’ve seen me cite  the research over an over again.

2. Parents need to do a better job at monitoring the time our kids spend saturating media. Don’t take it from me, don’t take it from Dobson… take it from doctors at the Kaiser Foundation or The American Academy of Pediatrics. The research is overwhelming: we need to take notice of anything that takes up this much time in our kids’ lives. And we also need to set healthy media boundaries. I spend a whole chapter talking about this in my parenting book.

3. Consider a media fast. Call me extreme, but I’ve seen it work. All three of my kids just left for mission trips this week, mission trips that required each kid to choose something to fast from for one month. My son Alec, by his own choosing, fasted from video games for a month, my 15-year-old Alyssa fasted from TV and any music that wasn’t worship music, my 13-year-old Ashley did the same. This is the second year they’ve done this fast and the results were amazing. We spent more time in conversation and Bible this past month than in years. THE KEY: This was kid driven. They chose what they needed to fast from. I don’t recommend that all parents try to get their kids to fast from media for a whole month. But as parents build solid relationships with their kids and talk about these issues, they can easily suggest that the family tries a one day fast? Maybe a week?

Last week I was hanging with a junior high kid who I had been noticing some odd behaviors from. While the other kids were hanging out and talking with each other, he was isolating himself and listening to his iPod. I chatted with him for a while, then later, when he had his ear buds in, I asked him, “Hey, whatcha listening to?” I put my hand out like I wanted to see his iPod. He hesitated, then handed it to me. He was listening to Eminem (explicit in more ways than one).

I was talking with my daughter Ashley about this experience a few days later and she asked me, “How come you always want to see a kid’s iPod, Dad?”

I smiled. “Because the iPod is the window to the heart.”

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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3 Responses to Connection Between Pop Music and Depression

  1. jon forrest says:

    Ha. Jon 2:3 “the iPod is the window to a kid’s heart.” I fasted from media for a month and it was really refreshing. I was amazed how much easier it was for me to keep my mind pure. we have two missions trips this summer. we may give fasting a shot. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it.

  2. Jack Wellman says:

    As a pastor and a father and grandfather, I applaud your diligence. This line, “the iPod is the window to the heart” is spot on the mark and a brilliant analysis indeed. Thank you.

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