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Why Rock Music Is Bad For You

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:45 UK time, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Oderus from GwarGuitar Hero fans, Rock Band addicts, moshtafarians...did you know that you are taking your life in your hands every time you crank up the metal? Are you aware of the long-term risks you are taking, just by playing loud, aggressive rock music? Do you know what dark forces you unleash every time you get your mosh on? You don't? Well, it would probably be a good idea if you read this stark warning, even if - as you rebellious rock types are prone to doing - you just flip the finger to the whole thing and go and sit on a bus with your iPod set to a Grandpa-irritatingly loud level.

It seems that an expert in the prevention of heart disease has discovered that too much loud aggressive music could put your arteries at risk. But only if the music makes you feel anxious.

(You could easily argue that it's actually feeling anxious which is bad for you, and not the music, but that's not what any of the news reports covering this story have done. Bear with me a second, we'll get to it)

The principle investigator was Dr Michael Miller, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

He explains: "We had previously demonstrated that positive emotions...were good for vascular health. So, a logical question was whether other emotions, such as those evoked by music, have a similar effect"

Put simply, the study took four sets of readings over a two week period, from 10 subjects (7 men and 3 women, a group whose average age was 36). Having not eaten anything overnight (or listened to music for a fortnight), the volunteers were each given a test of blood-flow through the endothelium, a vessel in the upper arm which can regulate blood flow and affect blood thickening. Then they were exposed to music, with dramatic results.

Two of the subjects exploded on the spot, and a further three developed what can only be described as a 'wobbly patch' on the front of their skulls.

Only kidding. The results are a little less dramatic than that. The first set were taken while the subjects listened to music they found to be joyful. The second were taken while listening to calming ambient-type music, then a third set were taken while they listened to music which made them "anxious".

On average, the diameter of the endothelium expanded by 26% when joyful music was played (that's a good thing), but contracted by 6% on contact with anxious music.

This means - according to some, slightly misleading press reports - that scary old agressive rock music is officially bad for you, but soothing country music is better for you than a 3 mile run. Something like that, anyway.

Dr Miller finished by saying: "Needless to say, these results were music to my ears because they signal another preventive strategy that we may incorporate in our daily lives to promote heart health."

Now, I'm not saying that they will, but should there come a time when people use this study to try and shut down Slipknot and ban Metallica, I have prepared some cut-out-and-keep responses, just to make sure the debate runs in the direction of people who like a rock, now and then. And here they are:

OK, first of all, "music to my ears"? Nice work, Patch Adams, with your crazy sense of humour you are really winning us round.

Secondly, the very last thing we need, after being told not to drink, smoke, eat fatty stuff or be stressed*, is that we can't take out our frustrations in loud and/or aggressive music.Some things which are possibly bad in the short term, turn out to be good for other things in the long term, or just good, or they simply FEEL good, and that will have to do.

Thirdly, of COURSE loud, agressive rock music isn't good for your health. It's too loud, it's too aggressive, and it's ROCK MUSIC. It's not supposed to be good for your health. It is supposed to be good for your soul. It is supposed to help you clear out the backlog of frustration in a cathartic, cleansing and (above all) FUN manner. Loud, aggressive rock music is designed to make people throw themselves about like ragdolls, bashing into each other, getting a bit sweaty and giggly, and making use of any surplus energy which might otherwise drive rock fans towards trouble with the law, or shouting at pensioners.

Moshers in trouble

Fourthly, it's fairly clear that the people listening to the music were not fans of aggressive rock music to start off with. If so, listening to the music they liked would surely have opened those arteries right up, even if it was the new Slipknot album. If not, of course it's going to make them "anxious", in the same way that listening to Snow Patrol makes me anxious. On a study this small, you couldn't say that one genre of music definitely always causes the same physiological reaction. That would be mad.

Oh wait, Dr Miller already said something like that. Look: "We're all wired differently, we all react differently. I enjoy country music, so I could appreciate why country music could cause that joyful response"

And finally...I've done a little bit of research, and discovered that Dr Miller conducted another experiment not long ago, and the results of this suggest that the best thing you can do to look after your heart is have a jolly good laugh.

So, should there come a point where concerned parents attempt to band shouty rock music in case it causes mass coronaries in their children, you know what to do, don't you? Have a little giggle...should sort you right out.

Here's a more sober look at this report...

* The BBC would like me to point out that these are still very unhealthy things to do. Please don't do them. And if you're feeling a bit young, and easily swayed, that goes double for you.

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