Listening to Lots of Music Could Mean Your Teen is Depressed, Study Shows

Filed under: In The News

teen depression

Teen depression may lie within their music. Credit: Corbis

Turns out parents don't have to worry about the teen who has sequestered herself in her room, buried in the book "Water for Elephants." But, that kid who constantly has earbuds in? She may be offering clues that she is seriously depressed, NPR reports.

In a new study, researchers found teenagers were more likely to be depressed if they spent a lot of time listening to music, while those who read were significantly less depressed, according to NPR.

With depression striking one in 12 teens, according to HealthCentral.com, researchers wanted to create a portrait of what drives this significant mental health issue in teens and set out to do a little detective work, NPR reports.


For five consecutive weekends, a research team at the University of Pittsburgh phoned (more than 60 times) the homes of more than 100 teens asking parents to check on what their teens were up to: Were they on the Internet, splayed on the coach watching TV, hooked up to headphones or reading?

The findings, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, showed teens who listened to music had an 80 percent increase in odds for suffering from a major depressive disorder, while teens who read decreased their odds by 50 percent, the researchers report.

Music doesn't cause the depression, but it's more likely that teens who are depressed turn to music, versus an active activity such as reading, Brian Primack, a pediatrician at the University of Pittsburgh and the lead author on the study, tells NPR.

"It's more likely that depressed teenagers are turning to music for solace, rather than music being the cause of the mental illness," Primack tells NPR. "They don't feel like doing anything. They don't have a lot of energy, and this is a place where they can go and they don't have to perform."

If a teen is retreating to music, parents might want to take a closer look, Primack tells NPR.

"Depression is harder to discover in young people compared to older people," he adds. "Sometimes the signs and symptoms in adolescence are different. Maybe there's more irritability as opposed to sadness. Music may be a clue that a child needs help."

So, reading may mean a less depressed teen, but few are taking a look at the written word. Less than 2 percent of the teens surveyed said they were reading a book, newspaper or magazine, Primack tells NPR.

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