Drinking alcohol, taking drugs and engaging in risky sex have long been linked together in young people, but a new study suggests that “risky music-listening” should also be added to the list of health-risk behaviors.
Not only do teens and young adults who listen to loud music have an increased risk of hearing loss, Dutch researchers found that young people who blast music were also more likely to smoke cigarettes, binge drink, take soft and hard drugs and have sex without a condom.
Dutch researchers at Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam surveyed 944 students from inner-city vocational schools between the ages of 15 to 25 about their music-listening habits and lifestyles.
They measured “music-listening dose” by asking participants how much time they spent listening to music on their MPA players, at a club or concert and estimated how loud each participant generally listened to their music.
Participants were then divided into either exposed group or not exposed to risky music levels group based on a cut-off defined as one hour per day of music at 89 decibels, a volume as loud as a lawnmower.
Researchers found that about one-third of the participants were risky MP3-player listeners and nearly half were exposed to music at risky volume levels at clubs and concerts.
Lead researcher Ineke Vogel and her team found that young people who regularly listened to loud music on MP3 players were generally twice as likely to have taken marijuana in the last month, compared to non-risky music listeners, they reported in Pediatrics on Monday.
Young people frequently exposed to music at clubs and concerts were six times more likely to binge drink and twice as likely to have risky sex with inconsistent condom use, compared to those who weren’t exposed to loud music at these venues.
Researchers noted that those who frequented clubs and concerts were also less likely to smoke pot compared to other young people.
"I think they've really shown that sex and drugs go with rock and roll," said Dr. Sharon Levy, head of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children's Hospital who wasn't involved in the study, according to Reuters.
"We know that high-risk behaviors certainly run together, so in some ways it's not a big surprise," Levy told Reuters.
Levy warned that it is still too early to start warning parents that listening to loud music could lead to drug or alcohol abuse because researchers didn’t indicate what type of music participants in the study were listening to and whether listening to MP3 players made people feel like smoking marijuana or vice versa.
Levy also pointed out that it was important to determine whether young people are listening to music that glorifies risky behaviors and if their unhealthy decisions about drinking, drugs or sex were based on that.
"That's a really important question: is what they're hearing changing their behavior? That becomes important for parents," she said.
Vogel and her team conclude that additional research in risky health behaviors should take listening to loud music into account, and interventions to prevent risky behaviors could target loud-music venues, like nightclubs, but Levy said the latest findings do not warrant doctors to treat their patients differently or change the way parents see their kids’ music-listening.
"It's really an important reminder that these risk behaviors, they really go together," Levy said to Reuters. However, "I don't think that we're at the point that we should say, 'Boy, you should really cut down MP3 player use' -- we should because of the hearing loss, but I don't think there's any evidence that's going to affect other risky behaviors at this point."