Teens' Love of Loud Music Tied to Drinking, Drug Abuse

MONDAY May 21, 2012 -- In a new study, teens who loved listening to music blasting at high decibels on their MP3 players were also more likely than others to smoke marijuana, while those who listened to loud music at concerts and clubs were more likely to drink heavily and have sex without a condom.

Experts stressed that the findings don't prove that loud music or concerts have anything to do with pot smoking, drinking or unprotected sex, only that there is an association.

"These risk-taking behaviors do go together, but listening to loud music does not cause drug use and drug use does not cause loud-music listening," said Valerie Stratton, an associate professor emerita of psychology at Penn State Altoona. She was not involved in the new study

Still, Stratton said, a better understanding of how various behaviors work together could help researchers develop ways to prevent young people from hurting their health. "The message may be to consider all aspects of this adolescent lifestyle when trying to intervene or work with these high-risk individuals," she said.

The Dutch researchers launched the study to understand the connection between types of music-listening and behaviors considered to be unsafe.

"When adolescents take one risk, they also tend to take other risks," explained study author Ineke Vogel, a researcher at Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam. "So, if you want to prevent them from performing such risky behaviors or want them to stop or reduce such behaviors, you best address them together in one integrated program."

In the new study, researchers got competed surveys from 944 young people aged 15 to 25 -- average age 18 -- in an inner-city neighborhood in the Netherlands. Almost two-thirds of the participants were female, and two-thirds weren't of Dutch heritage but instead Moroccan, Turkish or of other ethnicities.

Those who listened to levels of music on MP3 players that the researchers considered risky -- about 30 percent of those who replied to the survey -- were more likely to smoke pot.

Why? The study authors have a theory: "The combination of cannabis use and risky MP3-player listening could be related to the existential period in life that constitutes adolescence and emerging adulthood, not only because of the positive feeling to be alive and the experience of existential meaning, but also as something that can fill existential emptiness."

Those who listened to loud music at concerts and clubs -- about 48 percent of the total -- were more likely to binge drink and inconsistently use condoms during intercourse.

Overall, a third said they smoked, a third said they'd engaged in binge drinking within the past month, 13 percent said they'd recently smoked pot and about 38 percent said they hadn't always used condoms during sex.

Study co-author Alex Burdorf, a professor of determinants of population health at Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam, said the findings offer insight into how the things that young people do are interconnected. "From a prevention point of view, we would focus on general strategies on how to cope with temptations and try to teach these risk groups how to achieve this," Burdorf said.

The study appears in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics.

More information

For more about protecting yourself from noise -- like loud music -- try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Posted: May 2012


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