As most know, music makes you feel better, but there is more to the story. A new study, from the school of psychology at Queen's University in Belfast (QUB), showed another layer— that age can affect how much music improves your mood. The study involved 40 adults, aged between 18 and 30, and another 40 adults, aged between 60 and 81. Each of the participants sent the researchers a playlist of songs they would listen to in order to reduce stress in the outside world. When they arrived at the QUB laboratory, the paticipants were given five minutes to prepare a short speech about themselves, which they were told they would deliver at the end of the laboratory session as well as be given a math test.
Then the participants were randomly assigned to either listen to music of their choice or listen to a radio documentary on Charles Darwin. Afterwards, the participants completed a survey designed to assess moods, before being informed they wouldn’t actually have to deliver the speech. The researchers found that participants who listened to music of their choosing tended to rate themselves as feeling less stressed, nervous, upset, sad, and depressed.
The older people in the study who listened to their own music reported significantly more reduction of stress than either the group who listened to the radio documentary or the younger participants overall. According to lead scientist in the experiment, Dr. Groarke, “The results indicate that personal music listening can support stress management for both younger and older adults. However, the fact that older adults showed greater stress reduction when listening to self-chosen music and when listening to a radio documentary also supports existing theory that emotion regulation abilities develop over time and improve with age."
There was a range of music genres, classical being the most popular among older participants, while pop and indie were most popular among the younger participants. A number of older people also chose pop, country, and traditional Irish music. Folk, rock, and electronic or ambient music were other popular choices among the younger participants.
In the end, Dr. Groarke had this to say, “When feeling stressed, listening to music can help us feel better, and it may not be important to listen to something that’s classically thought of as relaxing — even your favourite Ed Sheeran or Slipknot songs can do the trick.”
Link to the orginal study: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0218017