Feeling blue? Sad songs DO help us cope better with grief, study finds

Sad music helps people come to terms with grief more effectively than happy music, a new study led by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has found.

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It was found that listening to tracks by artists like Adele, Radiohead and Muse was for many people a helpful self-medication when they experienced negative emotions – and could actually help you cope with loss.

Working with researchers from other universities, Dr Annemieke van del Tol led two separate studies, involving around 450 people, looking at the listening habits of people going through a range of emotions and circumstances.

The conclusions showed that while many people enjoyed happy music more, it was the sadder, more emotional tracks which they turned to at times of crisis.

Dr Van den Tol said: “Sadness often involves emotional loss, which is not a problem which can be solved or reversed. The only real way to move on and feel better is by accepting the situation and we found that people were able to do this by listening to sad music, but not so much by listening to happy music.”

“When we asked people about their sad music choices, participants were allowed to respond with regards to any sad songs or piece of music they believed to sound sad.”


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In the first study, listeners to a popular Dutch radio station were asked to fill in an online questionnaire which listed a set of statements, with participants scoring each from one to five based on how true it was for them.

The second study looked at why people chose to listen to sad music when feeling sad in the first place, with people being asked to recall such an occasion and show agreement with a string of reasons.

Far more people agreed with the assertion that they listened to sad music for consolation than happy music and that they did so to find consolation when negative feeling were ‘overwhelming’.

For many, sad music helped listeners cope with a negative situation, helped them cry and deal with grief. The date showed that this emotional involvement with the sad music helped listeners to cope with and accept feelings of loss. .Whereas happy music was not linked to dealing with grief in any of these ways.

Dr Van den Tol said: “Ultimately, this study shows that even though many people prefer listening to happy music in general, they find sad music helps them deal with sadness more often.

“By connection to the sad emotions in the music, they are able to turn negative emotions into something more peaceful, allowing them to move on and accept these.”

Posted on Monday 28 March 2016

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