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Music Lyrics Survey

Music Lyrics Survey 

With the  recent riots people have raised the question of the influence of music on young people. This study raises some interesting points.

Teenagers listen to an average of nearly 2.5 hours of music per day. One in three popular songs contains explicit references to drug or alcohol use, according to a report published in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 

The report shows that young people are receiving about 35 references to drugs or alcohol for every hour of music they listen to.

Studies have shown that media messages have a pronounced impact on young people’s behaviours. Exposure to images of smoking in movies influences a young person’s risk of picking up the habit. Alcohol use in movies and promotions has also been linked to actual alcohol use.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine studied the 279 most popular songs from 2005, based on reports from Billboard magazine, which tracks popular music. 

Whether a song contained a reference to drugs or alcohol varied by genre. Only 9 percent of pop songs had lyrics relating to drugs or alcohol. The number jumped to 14 percent for rock songs, 20 percent for R&B and hip-hop songs, 36 percent for country songs and 77 percent for rap songs.

Smoking references aren’t that common in music today, with only 3 percent of the songs portraying tobacco use. About 14 percent of songs spoke of marijuana use, 24 percent mentioned alcohol use, and another 12 percent included reference to other substances. About 4 percent of the songs contained “anti” drug and alcohol messages.

The study authors noted that popular music generally portrays drug or alcohol use in a positive way. The average adolescent is exposed to approximately 84 references to explicit drug or alcohol use per day and 591 references per week, or 30,732 references per year. The average adolescent listening only to pop would be exposed to 5 references per day, whereas the average adolescent who listens just to rap would be exposed to 251 references per day.

While the impact of exposure to images of smoking and alcohol in film has been well documented, less is known about the effect of music on young people’s behaviour.

Although music lacks the visual element of film, adolescent exposure to music is much more frequent, accounting for an average of 16 hours each week for music compared with about 6 hours each week for movie images, according to the study authors. But frequency of exposure is not the only factor. Unlike visual media, music is a powerful social force that also taps into an individual’s personal identity, memories and mood.

“Music is well-known to connect deeply with adolescents and to influence identity development, perhaps more than any other entertainment medium,” said the study authors.

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