Does listening to music support coping with induced stress? An RCT


  • J. Groarke
  • P. McKenna-Plumley
  • M. Hogan


Background: Affect regulation is a central component of wellbeing and is generally considered the most important function of music listening. The current study used experimental methods to examine the affect regulating effects of music listening, aiming to extend the scope of previous research which has employed university-aged samples, researcher-prescribed music, and silent control conditions. Method: Forty younger (18-30 years old) and forty older (60-81 years old) adults completed demographic and music training questionnaires and The Adaptive Functions of Music Listening Scale, and indicated 15 minutes of music they would listen to in a stressful situation. Negative affect (NA) was induced using the Trier Social Stress Test, followed by 10 minutes of the intervention (listening to their chosen music) or control (listening to a radio documentary) condition. Self-reported affect was measured at baseline, post-induction, and post-intervention. Findings: Examining reduction in induced NA as the dependent variable, a 2x 2 ANCOVA controlling for baseline affect and reactivity to the NA induction found significant main effects of group, with the intervention group experiencing greater reductions in NA across a range of discrete measures. There were also significant main effects of age, with older adults experiencing greater NA reduction in both conditions. Perceived efficacy of music listening for the function of anxiety regulation did not predict greater regulation. Discussion: These findings suggest that self-chosen music listening may provide a cost-effective and easily applied means of supporting emotion regulation in response to stressful events, such as awaiting medical procedures.





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