Music heals. Even gothic doom metal.

The latest radio ad from Kaiser Permanente.

“There’s a reason you see so many people walking around with earphones. We love listening to music. And, aside from gothic doom metal, music makes us feel good. We bob our heads, tap our feet, play air guitar. We feel music in our bodies, our minds, and souls. Studies show that music can actually reduce depression and anxiety. It can calm us down and even offer relief from chronic pain. That’s some pretty powerful medicine. So here’s a sonic prescription from Kaiser Permanente: listen to music daily. Twice daily. Three times daily, or just as needed. Explore new music. Expand your playlist. Sing along at the traffic light with foolish abandon. Because not only can music rock your world, it can make you happier and healthier. We’re Kaiser Permanente and we want you to live well, listen well, and thrive.”

So goes one of the most recent ads from healthcare company Kaiser Permanente. It’s great to hear anybody encouraging the use of music as a form of medicine. After all, studies have suggested that when we listen to music, we get an endorphin boost and it’s good for our cardiovascular systems.

Of course, while it’s tongue-in-cheek, the ad is wrong on one count: gothic doom metal, or any heavy metal, is just as good for you as other music, if it’s the music you love most. (In fact, in the cardiovascular study above, people were asked specifically to listen to their favorite music after a two-week break from it. Their responses were remarkable.) It’s a shame that they would call out a genre that many people love.

Tom Phillips, songwriter from doom-metal band While Heaven Wept, responded to the ad:

“First and foremost, I truly think it is a shame that ANY form of music is ever branded with a negative connotation; it wasn’t lost on me that this was a misguided attempt at humor on the part of Kaiser Permanente, but the reality is this is the kind of mentality that results in music ultimately being blamed for violence and tragedy.

Further, a healthcare organization should recognize the value of music as a constructive outlet in dealing with tribulations and negativity. … The bottom line is any form of music can be helpful, healing, and inspiring perhaps even more so than the most advanced medicine in many cases. I personally would not be here today if it weren’t for Doom Metal.”

Enter Dr. Brian Primack, with the University of Pittsburgh, who found in a recent study that teens who listen to lots of music tend to suffer from depression. More specifically, depression was more common among teens who a) listened to lots of popular music (not gothic doom metal!) and b) chose music over other forms of enrichment, such as books. (The bookworms had the lowest rates of depression.)

“At this point, it is not clear whether depressed people begin to listen to more music to escape, or whether listening to large amounts of music can lead to depression, or both. Either way, these findings may help clinicians and parents recognize links between media and depression,” Dr. Primack said.

I think, especially given the other research, it’s much more likely that depressed teens are using music to self-medicate. Maybe they’re even listening to some gothic doom metal.

What kinds of music make you feel the best? What’s the must surprising music you’ve turned to for healing?


4 responses to “Music heals. Even gothic doom metal.

  1. First of all, I don’t find it at all surprising that listening to popular music is depressing. It depresses me, too, so I don’t listen to it.

    Music that makes me feel good? Poco/Richie Furay. Hole. Elliott Murphy’s first album. Roxy Music (the early stuff). Joni Mitchell (Court/Hissing/Hejira — the holy trinity). Willy DeVille. Reba singing If I Were a Boy. Don Everett Pearce. Some Alanis. Milla Jovovich. Some Elton John.

    The Grateful Dead is the best for getting things done, but I usually don’t listen to them otherwise.

  2. Pingback: Goth’s relationship with the metal scene | Gothic Holiday

  3. I’m actually listening to some gothic doom metal right now: my favorite band, Draconian, their album “Turning Season Within”. I am 15 years old, and I most definitely suffer from depression, but believe it or not this music makes me weep because I connect with it so well, and I come away from this little session feeling renewed.
    People don’t listen to this type of metal to feel good about themselves in the same sense as some other genres, people listen to it to appreciate the deep beauty of the lyrics or to get energy from the brutal sound. If I want something to make me feel happy, I hop on over to YouTube and watch some Smosh videos. But when I want some “me time” I listen to metal, specifically gothic doom metal.

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